With The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013), their follow-up to 2009’s Amer, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani kick down the doors of perception and let loose with a spectacular work of psychedelic genre pillaging. This is cinematic pilfering with a difference; it’s not so much the result of watching a swathe of gialli as it is endless nights spent dreaming about them afterwards. The archive is raided for images, sounds and motifs with fetishistic detail, then reconstructed according to the directors’ distinctive kaleidoscopic vision. Cattet and Forzani treat giallo as an elaborate Freudian minefield; a pure cinematic expression of the proximity between sex and death – la petite mort as a dark night of the soul.
The plot is deceptively simple but infinitely malleable, following telecommunications executive Dan Kristensen (Klaus Tange) who returns home from a business trip in Frankfurt to find his wife missing and, in true Euro-horror tradition, he may be losing his mind. His apartment building could double up as a Lynchian studio lot; a series of rooms constructed for the capture of performance. The pomp and artifice are a voyeur’s paradise and, to that end, Strange Colour is a film about both looking and being watched. There’s glass everywhere, but everything is obfuscated in one or way or another. From the painted windows to the broken mirrors; we are watching, but we can’t truly see. At one point, glass even becomes an instrument of sexual torture; the pleasures and pains of seeing laid horribly bare.
Cattet and Forzani are preoccupied by the oneiric; the uncanny relationship between cinema and the subconscious. The directors present dreams as extensions of the giallo form, places where we desire, fantasise and fear. The primacy given to the extremities of human behaviour is what elevates Strange Colour from mere genre pastiche. Its horror riffs happen on the same wavelength as our dreams; they cross over and merge, perhaps suggesting certain shared traits between the psychopath and the cinephile. They conjure such a perversely alluring world; a dreamscape to dive into and drown. Cattet and Forzani’s mastery of audio and visual cues is also intimidatingly precise; the camera moves with all the flair of peak-era Dario Argento and the sound design is quite simply a sensory marvel.
While the distorted narrative does threaten to tip into thematic opacity, it’s largely held together by the directors’ intricate motif structure. Sounds and images reoccur at various stages, emphasising and warping. The approach maintains a semblance of consistency whilst also allowing the filmmakers to indulge in their hypnotic phantasmagoria. Cattet and Forzani are two gifted creatives who have spent a lifetime in fleapit cinemas; thus, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears constitutes the disparate shards of the experiences they had there.