THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS AKA L’ETRANGE COULEUR DES LARMESV DE TON CORPS [France 2013]
AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 102 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
A woman is brutally killed after being teased with a knife ran across her naked body. Cut to Dan Kristensen, who arrives back at his apartment to find his wife has disappeared, despite the door being locked from the inside. The police don’t believe him, but a strange elderly woman in an apartment upstairs tell him about a ‘presence’ lurking in the walls of the building, so Dan sets about trying to unravel the mystery and look for clues as to the whereabouts of his wife….
In a way, I’m not sure if my review of this film will be that good. The Strange Colour Of Your Body’s Tears is one of those films that you experience rather than properly watch, and I almost wished I’d given myself in totally to said experience rather than trying to remember stuff, though in a weird way I still don’t remember too many details because this film is a total sensory overload. Imagine if you watched a double bill of David Lynch and Dario Argento, then took some very heavy acid, and that may give you an idea of this extraordinary film, though it certainly doesn’t do it justice. It should tell you, though, that this is one very odd picture, even odder than the previous feature length film from Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet, Amer. That was a strikingly artistic endeavour, a kind of deconstruction of the giallo, and I couldn’t wait to see whether they would do something similar next or something totally different. The Strange Colour Of Your Body’s Tears, as you can probably guess from the title which is a great example of the sort of wonderfully convoluted titles giallos often had, exists in the same world of Amer and Forzani and Cattet’s contribution to The ABCs Of Death, O Is For Orgasm, but is in many ways even more experimental and strange. It’s not made up of three distinct parts like Amer, but that’s about the only thing in which it’s more conventional.
The conventions of the giallo are even more in evidence here, in fact you can virtually tick very common elements as they come along : black-gloved killer, childhood trauma, disappearing wife/girlfriend, bloody murders, confusing plot etc. Images and ideas from certain films appear at such rapid speed that I doubt even I was able to make all them out, but from Argento’s filmography alone you see an axe smashed into a wall to reveal secrets behind it, a bird with what certainly looks like crystal plumage, colour lighting just like a certain German dance academy, and other things that will be familiar to fans familiar with the work of the once great director [The Strange Colour Of Your Body’s Tears is the sort of film he should be making now], while there’s also obvious influences from filmmakers as diverse as Fritz Lang, Roman Polanski, Louis Bunuel and Nicolas Roeg. Forzani and Cattet themselves claim influence from Brian De Palma and Satoshi Kon, writer and director of at least two of the best anime features, but their film isn’t just a melange of influences. Yes, it’s very much informed by the work of others, but Forzani and Cattet have also done something quite amazing with all this, doing unique things with editing and camerawork and even pushing at times the boundaries of ‘conventional’ cinema. This is not an ‘easy’ film, and it’s easy to get annoyed with a film whose story, because of the hyper-stylised way it’s told, is hard to make out. I certainly didn’t understand all of it, and I have a feeling that deep down it’s fairly straight-forward, but what stunning, gorgeous style!
The opening intercuts footage of our ‘hero’ Dan on a plane, arriving at an airport and then the apartment building in which he lives, with black and white images of somebody with black gloves running a knife over a woman’s naked body before killing her. We don’t see many of the important details, but the shots, which include one of a horrid doll, have quite an impact, delving headfirst into the murky combination of violence with sexuality that is such an important ingredient in the giallo. Then Dan goes into the building, and kaleidoscopic images [and a bit of CGI that is rather poor, sadly] of parts of the entrance to the building occur behind the titles. You can’t say that this film doesn’t let you know what it’s going to be like! I was quite frankly getting rather excited that I was obviously watching something very unusual and daring, though there were times where I was totally confused, partly because Forzani and Cattet just will not shoot anything in a ‘normal’ fashion. This can lead to one not being sure what is happening at times, but, it can also be rather exhilarating and even make many other films seem dull, boring and not doing anywhere near what they can with the medium of film!
The familiar premise of the search for the missing wife unfolds in an apartment block brimming with diverse and striking set design, often art nouveau mixed with 70’s kitsch [bar one mobile phone, the film seems to actually take place in the 70’s]. Sometimes the backgrounds seem to actually change, or was that just the effect the film was having on me? When someone feels a certain emotion, which admittedly is usually fear or loss of mind in this movie, it tends to be actually visualised in some way. Dan talks to some of the strange inhabitants of the rooms around him, and they include a weird witch-like woman whose face is hidden and a woman whose husband was killed by something in the attic. They sometimes they tell their own stories, so much so that it’s easy to lose track. Dan himself is given a lot of scenes, some of them events he is just thinking of, in black and white with quickly changing still images. There’s a hell of a lot to concentrate on, especially as Forzani and Cattet like to fill their film with off-kilter details like a young girl selling sweets to old men, but if you’re game, the film is extremely immersive. Every single scene is shot for maximum impact. Even something mundane like a man having a drink is turned into a incredible montage of gorgeous shots.
Unsurprisingly, there are some bloody murders, with much vicious razor and knife nastiness, but, perhaps surprisingly, even these are in a way quite beautiful because of the way they’re shot. One especially amazing scene has Dan being force-fed some kind of drug and making love to a woman who is virtually a human light bulb. I could have personally done with a few more long shots, and the inventiveness threatens to stall just over half way through with some very repetitive stuff taking place in Dan’s room, but the film soon recovers as it heads to its close, which does tie a few things up but does it mostly visually so you really have to pay attention and, as I said, some things aren’t clear the first time round. All this ingenuity and boldness isn’t all painfully serious: Forzani and Cattet show a sly sense of humour in scenes like a man taking pictures of the woman he’s having sex with and clicking faster and faster as he reaches orgasm, or amusing commentary on the multilingual mess of many giallos, films that often employed cast members from different countries all speaking their own languages so it’s impossible to get a proper ‘original language’ version.
As with Amer, the film is scored with existing tracks from giallo films from the likes of Ennio Morricone, Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, and Bruno Nicolai. It works very well, though I’d like Forzani and Cattet to get an original score for their next film. The Strange Colour Of Your Body’s Tears manages to be a bit too much at times. There were times I just wanted it to calm down and show us something properly, and not wanting to show us something properly is one of modern cinema’s most perverse trends, but it’s still a breath of fresh air, a joyous, unfettered celebration of not just what may seem to some obscure old Italian thrillers, but filmmaking itself. I’d now like to see these geniuses try something a bit different – talents as strong as Forzani and Cattet should be making films in Hollywood anyway – and maybe even employ their brilliance in the service of a clearer narrative, though it wouldn’t really bother me much if they just made films like The Strange Colour Of Your Body’s Tears and Amer for the rest of their lives.