The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears (2013)

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Also Known As: L'étrange couleur des larmes de ton corps
Directed By: Hélène CattetBruno Forzani
Starring: Klaus TangeUrsula BedenaJoe Koener 
Running Time: 102 mins
Release Date: 2013
Country Of Origin: Belgium

PREFACE: I'm referring to this film as a giallo because I believe that Cattet and Forzani have used so many elements of the genre in this film, as well as Amer, that it invites the inevitable comparison. It may be more appropriate to judge this film as a piece of art cinema but in my belief, at its essence, The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears is a piece of giallo or neo gialli cinema.

If there's one thing I could take away from my experience of seeing The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears at the cinema it would be never and I mean NEVER go to the cinema hung over which is a lesson I really should have learnt after my last cinema hang over ruined Berbarian Sound Studio. So when I found myself sliding down the seat, wanting to claw my own eyes out to make the film  stop I put it down to my slightly fragile state and vowed to watch it again when I had a clearer mindset.

I was really hoping a second, stone cold sober viewing would make this film more bearable, even likable but sadly my sobriety didn't change my overall opinion of TSCOYBT because fuck me, this one is at times a complete chore to watch. I love watching gialli for the beautiful visuals, dynamic shots and stylish settings and yes, this film looks absolutely incredible and visually flawless but it misses the key component of the giallo - enjoyment. Whether it's being petrified by pupazzo in Deep Red or crying with laughter at the ridiculousness of the toll booth scenes in The Killer Must Never Die, a good giallo is never dull - something that Cattet and Forzani seem to forget in this self indulgent, inaccessible film.

TSCOYBT follows businessman Dan as he returns home from one of his routine work trips - only to find his wife, Edwige, has disappeared and the suspicious residents of his elaborate apartment building are unwilling to help him find her. In terms of plot there's not much else to say, the film starts with this premise, presenting us with the mystery of what happened to Edwige but quickly descends into something resembling art house cinema which has a place but seems at odds with what the film initially presents itself as.

After half an hour of intrigue, it becomes clear that the film isn't going to go anywhere. Scenes that were effective once or twice quickly become infuriating after they are repeated over and over again. For example, the black and white shot of a knife caressing a woman's nipple that is used multiple times in the film feels completely redundant on its second and third use. Obviously, these scenes are supposed to have significance but I think using them multiple times in the exact same way isn't necessary and does nothing for the film as a whole. To me it feels like Forzani and Cattet are trying to over intellectualise the giallo and bash the audience over the head with "symbolism". Cattet and Forzani should be proud of the amazing visuals they have created here but to use them over and over again detracted from the overall feel and came across as indulgent rather than relative to events in the film. 

Cattet and Forzani are no strangers to the giallo with their first feature length film being dubbed as a "neo-giallo" partly responsible for reviving interest in the genre. They clearly understand the elements that make up a giallo and have a real talent for creating striking visuals that pack a punch. Unfortunately that isn't enough to create a solid, interesting feature. I felt myself repeatedly frustrated at, in my opinion, wasted scenes. I know the film is intended as an experience rather than a coherent, linear story but the film had potential to be something more than a string of visuals connected by the loosest of plots. Every time the film gathered some momentum and intrigue it was dropped in favour of another laboriously long visual that didn't go anywhere and diminished the atmosphere that had been created. The descent into art film makes the whole project feel pretentious and wasted. In my opinion, this film could have easily had the fantastic visual style alongside an intriguing, giallo mystery or at least something a little more developed. The film did have flashes of a genuinely mysterious plot that were unfortunately dropped as the film progressed . In my opinion, TSCOYBT would have worked better as a short or with a diminished running time. 

 I took issue with a few scenes that I felt "borrowed" a bit too much from other gialli. In much the same way I get annoyed at Quentin Tarantino's "homages" to other films, I found TSCOYBT crossed the line between homage and rip off and was really just lifting scenes from other films. For example, there's a scene in the film that's pretty much identical to the bottle smashing scene in The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh with Edwige Fenech.

It may sound like I'm being overally harsh on the film but as I said before, the reason why I am so critical about  the film is because I feel like there was a lot of wasted potential. The scenes that took place in the apartment hallways and the beautiful camera work showcasing the building itself were spectacular but Cattet and Forzani also managed to create an incredible scene outside the apartment. In a scene that has a passing resemblance to the opening of "Formula for a Murder", we witness a strange meeting taking place within a museum between two women - one clad in red and veiled. A man follows them but is stopped by a young girl who gives him what appears to be sweets but are hidden razors. The man is distracted by his bleeding hands and when he regains focus realises the mysterious women have disappeared and, and well that's it! I was so desperate to see this scene developed because it was fantastic and if the film had more content such as this scene or fleshed out the idea I would have rated it a lot more highly. Hell, the ideas in this scene alone would have made a great short.

TSCOYBT would benefit from, at the very least, a shorter running time as it feels so much longer than it actually is. The repeated imagery is overdone and becomes stale and it would have been better to expand other scenes and develop the mystery. Perhaps the real problem with the film is the inevitable comparison to the giallo genre. Check this one out if you have an interest in neo-gialli and a love of striking visuals otherwise you may be solely disappointed by the lack of gialli content in this giallo.


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