Giall-oh No: The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

08/27/2014 4:00 AM |

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani

The first thing you’ll hear about The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears is that it “follows in the giallo tradition,” which is both a gross understatement and lazily reductive, depending on your knowledge of and interest in that underground cinematic tradition. As with directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s previous aesthetic undertaking, Amer, the irrefutable goal here is to stimulate the senses, and in that respect Strange Color is a masterful exercise. A loosely woven murder mystery allows the creators to exploit the myriad macabre circumstances that masquerade as a narrative, but there’s no mistaking that in this film the devil really is in the details.

Imagine a 90-plus-minute funhouse visit and all its attendant thrill and exhaustion, and that’s what’s in store here. Dan (Klaus Tange) returns home from a business trip only to find his wife Edwige missing and his apartment chained shut from the inside. He embarks on a mission to uncover answers, along the way encountering creepy neighbors and a host of wildly flourished environments. Action flits between surrealistic dream sequences and Dan’s fantasy world as he tries to piece together, with little actual information, what may have happened to his beloved.

For the audience, it becomes immediately apparent that that Strange Color is nothing more than a hyperbolic exercise in aural and visual splendor. Shots rarely last for more than a few seconds, thankfully; the dizzying repetition of close ups, zooms and askew angles narrowly produces motion sickness in its frequency. The problem for the uninitiated, which will be most, is that even though there is beauty it is gradually obscured by diminishing returns. Though each frame is architectural and magnificently composed, there’s little to no narrative connective tissue to retain the audience’s attention.

The film’s gruesomeness doesn’t do it any favors, nor does its casual misogyny. There’s only so many times one can see a knife rip into someone’s skull, albeit artfully, and have it make much of an impact. Which is a shame, really, because if there were a smidgen more attention to story then Cattet and Forzani could transcend (escape?) their subcultural ghetto.

Opens August 29 at IFC Center