Some movies are watched. “The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears” is a movie you live inside. This new film from directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani touches you repeatedly, inappropriately, from the front and, delightfully, from the rear. To synopsize the film is folly, though it will be fun to see viewers try. This is the magic that Cattet and Forzani have weaved from their debut effort “Amer,” a hypnotic trip down the giallo rabbit hole. Very few filmmakers today are working with a radical new vocabulary, but Cattet and Forzani are using genre of the past to toss us, shouting, into the future.
There’s a story to this film, one involving a businessman returning home to a dead wife and an apartment that might not be empty. All of that, in the best way, is window dressing. De Palma was one of the first to utilize these techniques in suspense films, where the advanced technology allowed him to obscure perfunctory plots, often where the “who” in whodunit was blatantly, nakedly obvious. Cattet and Forzani are less dismissive of their narrative as much as they acknowledge it’s one of many props in an impressive arsenal. We don’t learn much more about the story: this businessman’s wife may have anticipated an attack, the police don’t fully trust or understand him, and his attempts to find a concrete answer to this riddle only introduce more logistical impossibilities.
And then, there is a scene where a jealous man sees his lover from afar, on the steps of a coliseum. She speaks hurriedly to another man, but the voyeur is distracted by a little girl urging him to take her candy, in small crimson wrapping paper. He takes a moment to accept the candy in his pocket but loses track of his lover. And when he finds her again, she is unrecognizable. He reaches for the candy, but the sharpness of the paper cuts him badly, with shades of red, folding into each other like origami.
Like “Amer”, this new film takes its cues from giallos in its zoom lenses, exaggerated colors, and moody music. But the references seem deeper, more complex: this is less Argento and more Sergio Martino, The sounds come from Ennio Morricone, Riz Ortolani and even Stelvio Cipriani, but this time, they feel less like loving touches and more like misdirection, gateways into the unknown. If Scarlett Johansson is leading her victims anywhere during “Under The Skin”, it’s into this movie. The camera keeps its distance, but Cattet and Forzani disorient by cranking and over-emphasizing certain effects. If leather is adjusted, the film makes it feel as if it is pressing against your face. When glass breaks, it is as if every window in your apartment building is shattering. The film is just as likely to shift from quick cuts to stop-motion, color to black and white.
Viewers aren’t going to be able to make much linear sense of “The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears.” The film is borderline installation-worthy, and would probably work just as well if the scenes were drastically re-arranged. But within this film is the dirty secret that horror movies only sometimes wink towards: that the real fear is in the director as ultimate creator. No matter how safe your characters might seem, there’s an invisible hand off-screen, ready to manipulate and destroy them, and re-shape the reality which you’ve already felt comfortable with. The success of found footage speaks to how this unseen creator could suddenly be relatable, understandable, human. “The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears” veers violently in the other direction, re-establishing these creators as vengeful gods with no inherent bias. In that way, perhaps it’s a little too scary for some. [A]