Documentary filmmaker Alan Berliner (’Nobody’s Business’, ’Intimate Stranger’) decides to explore the significance of names. He begins by looking at the variety and importance of names, citing statistics about names and asking for opinions about certain names. Berliner then explores his own name, interviewing his parents about how they chose his name and what it means to them. While doing this research, Berliner discovers that there are many other men in the world who share his moniker. So, he decides to throw an ’Alan Berliner’ party. He invites twelve of the other Alan Berliner’s to dinner so that they can meet one another and discover if they share anything in common other than a name.
As with many documentaries, ’The Sweetest Sound’ has potential, but it is simply too self-indulgent in nature. Berliner’s initial quest, to simply explore names, is an interesting and earnest one. But, when he begins to focus on himself, or more accurately, his own name, the universality of the piece begins to dwindle. The ’Alan Berliner’ party, which makes up for half of the film, feels like the documentation of a function to which we (the audience) were not invited and have no true interest in. Berliner does discuss ’ego searching’, which is the practice of entering one’s own name into an Internet search engine. Moments such as that, or interviewing people on the street for their opinions on names, was much more interesting than Berliner’s search for the significance and individuality of his own name. This is not to say that documentary filmmakers shouldn’t have a personal interest in their subject, but an apathetic audience will only watch for so long.
’The Sweetest Sound’ comes to DVD courtesy of Docurama. The film is presented full-frame. The quality of the image varies, as many different elements were used. The majority of the first 15 minutes of the piece is made up of stock-footage, so the image goes from perfect to very grainy. The interviews and the party were shot on film and these elements look good. There is a minimal amount of grain, and no overt distortion. The colors are good and there is no evidence of artifacting. The Dolby Digital Stereo track gives us clear dialogue with no hissing. The only extra included on the DVD is a biography of Alan Berliner…the Alan Berliner who directed this film, that is.