The Giallo era of horror filmmaking is among the most stylistically intriguing, launching the likes of Dario Argento, a revered master of terror, into the mainstream. Giallo has been mostly forgotten in the spectrum of modern horror, but directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani have spent the last few years creating Giallo homages that rival the original films. Their latest outing, a murder-mystery titled “The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears,” is their most visceral work yet.
Returning home from a business trip abroad, Dan Kristensen (Klaus Tange) walks in to find that his wife has gone missing. Having not listened to any of the four messages he left while he was gone, Dan is convinced that his love was kidnapped, although his apartment shows no signs of forceful entry. Enlisting the help of a seasoned detective who dealt with a similar case in the recent past, Dan sees his life falling apart at the seams as his burning desire to know who took his wife becomes more unbearable every day. Slipping in and out of reality, Dan uncovers clues in his own home that may lead to the person, or people, responsible.
Known mostly for their contribution to “The ABCs of Death” with their “O is for Orgasm” film, co-writer-directors Cattet and Forzani seem to be fascinated by uncovering the truth about sexual dysfunction through the guise of the Giallo. “The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears” is an erotic, terrifying, hilarious, and endlessly imaginative neo-Giallo that features some of the most visually inventive violence ever put on-screen. Seamlessly invoking themes of infidelity and unquenchable obsession, Cattet and Forzani never let their narrative ambitions eclipse the film’s breathtaking visuals, allowing viewers to bask in disorientation while never losing their way through the narrative.
Though it features certain hallmarks of pretentious art-house cinema, “Strange Colour” moves with a self-aware sensibility that permits the indulgence of such tropes without succumbing to them entirely. Cattet and Forzani approach the material as fans of the Giallo era, and the result is often an amalgamation of a gleefully violent and visually mesmerizing interpretation of human sexuality that is rarely portrayed with such a fearless audacity by any other directors in modern cinema. Anyone could rightfully accuse the film of suffering from “style over substance,” but the filmmakers focus so heavily on the detail of the visual aesthetic that the style eventually becomes the substance. Scenes of expository dialogue are replaced with gorgeously shot flashbacks that say more about certain characters than any line of dialogue ever could. The movement of an eye, slightly pursed lips, and battily insane dream sequences provide ample character development where dialogue is insufficient, which is accentuated when the film does attempt to provide verbal exposition, often doing so with minimal success.
Not to be ignored is “Strange Colour”’s flawless sound design, which is composed of moans, sighs, pops, bangs, zips, cuts, and slices that threaten to overwhelm the unprepared with an all-out assault on the senses. Scored to a host of classic Giallo themes from the likes of Ennio Morricone and Riz Ortolani, “Strange Colour”’s is at its best when finding the perfect balance between the different, overpowering aesthetics that develop the film’s ambiguously defined thematic structure, which it tends to do scene after scene. The focus on themes of sexuality are undeniable but not obvious, and the sound design successfully associates certain aspects of sexuality with the unassuming and unexpected noises that often trigger our memories when we least expect it.
Admittedly, the film does assume a literality late in the second act that threatens to offset the tone maintained throughout the film’s first hour. However, the foray into new territory late in the game opens the door for a wholly satisfying resolution in the third act. While the transition could have arguably been handled with more subtlety, “Strange Colour” ultimately becomes a better and more mature film for going in an unexpected direction, using its final act to somewhat mute the unceasing brutality that preceded it in order to deepen the exploration of its many poignant themes.
“The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears” is going to be a taxing experience for any casual lover of cinema, and a seemingly unbearable endurance test for anyone not well-versed in the Giallo era. As mercilessly violent as it is inexplicably alluring, “Strange Colour” is cinema at its most polarizing. Those expecting a quiet night at the movies would do better watching literally any other film, but for those willing to go where this film takes them, they’ll surely be rewarded with one of the year’s most satisfying films.Continue Reading Issue #19
French, Danish, Flemish
August 29, 2014 (US, limited)
1 hr. 42 min.
N/A (Equivalent to NC-17 for graphic nudity, pervasive sexuality, and strong bloody violence/gore
Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani
Klaus Tange, Ursula Bedena, Joe Koener, Birgit Yew, Hans de Munter