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Strange Color of Your Body's Tears, The

Strand Releasing // Unrated // December 9, 2014
List Price: $27.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted December 2, 2014 | E-mail the Author
Dan Kristensen (Klaus Tange) is a businessman, returning from a tiring trip out of town. He arrives home expecting to see his wife, Edwige, but she is nowhere to be found. He pours himself a few drinks, and becomes increasingly alarmed by her disappearance. The other people in his apartment complex are no help, and in fact even seem to be playing some sort of head game with him. He contacts the police, who send a send a somewhat suspicious detective (Joe Koener), who claims Dan has done things he can't remember and asks him questions that make him paranoid. Without anyone to help him, he dives deeper into the mystery of his apartment complex, desperate to find out what happened to Edwige. The closest thing he has to a lead is another woman living in the apartment, Barbara (Ursula Bedena), who somehow seems to know something about Edwige's disappearance.

At least, that's probably what's happening. The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears is an aggressively experimental picture, one that blows far past non-linear into straight-up abstract. Directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (Amer) have stated their inspiration for the film was the giallo horror genre made popular by Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Mario Bava, but this wild sensory overload is several generations removed from Suspiria. At almost no point during the film's 102-minute running time does anything that happens seem definitive or less than dreamlike, and the filmmakers have gone a step further by fracturing that already ambiguous atmosphere like a mirror, then re-arranging and reshuffling the shards at random. At times, the results are exhilarating, but the film is mostly just exhausting, with the viewer left wishing for a chance to breathe or take stock.

Cattet and Forzani don't entirely resist narrative. There are two sequences in the film that play out in a reasonably straightforward manner. The first comes early on, when an older couple (Birgit Yew and Hans De Munter) are awakened by the sound of something going on in the apartment above them. The man eventually drills a hole in the ceiling, and peers through it, then manages to make his way up there, while his wife listens through the ceiling with a stethoscope, passing matches up through the hole. It's a terrifying sequence that leaves most to the imagination, one of the most gripping in the film. Later, there is a more abstract but still generally coherent segment featuring monsters that loom up out of a hat box, tormenting a woman (also Bedena, but not necessarily Barbara) who has the misfortune of opening it. Unlike the stethoscope sequence, which is shot in a fairly straightforward manner, the hat box sequence is done in blurry, black-and-white still frames that give the impression of movement.

The duo play a number of editing tricks on the audience, some of which capture the imagination in an interesting way. There is the unusually sexy montage of a woman slipping clothes off, focused so intensely on the sound of fabric passing over skin, cut in a way that the sound and perpetual motion of gloves and blouses swishing off the woman's body continues unbroken for more than a minute. When the policeman comes to interrogate Dan, the filmmakers cut wildly between split screens, showing us Dan's mouth explaining his alibi while the policeman's suspicious eyes sit above. It creates a sort of dual close-up effect, illustrating the increasing panic of Dan's comments and the policeman processing it at the same time. The editing extends to the sound and music, which are aggressive, abrupt, and border on obnoxious. Viewers are likely to get anxious just listening to the movie.

Regrettably, all the style in the world can't save a movie if the viewer has no investment in the characters, and Cattet and Forzani never give us a chance to know Dan, or Edwige, or Barbara, or the cop, not to mention know if anything that's happening -- literally anything -- is true in any meaningful sense of the word. It's a film that drifts in and out of multiple realities, through illicit love affairs and police surveillance and sex and murder and even possibly a diamond heist, but without a narrative, it's hard for these elements to add up to anything, if they happened at all. The film becomes a jumble of sound and imagery, rattling the viewer with its intensity and specificity but having no deeper emotional impact, like a train rushing by. It's a beautiful film to look at, but being kept so far from significance is frustrating on the long, long road to a final shot that practically makes the entire film seem like a joke. There is no question as to whether Cattet and Forzani are inspired visual artists. Whether or not they can be called inspired filmmakers is still up for debate.

Strand Releasing retains their painted poster art for The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears, which makes for a very nice front cover. The back cover looks a little cheaper, with the combination of fonts and colors not feeling as polished. The single-disc release comes in a cheap Amaray case, and there is no insert. The artwork is reversible, as the poster features a nipple, and nobody would want a child's eyes to burn in their sockets. The side facing outward when the package is sealed has the offending part of the image obscured by a shard of glass, but viewers are free to display the art however they want in the privacy of their own home.

The Video and Audio
I saw The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears in a local theater, presented in HD. It's a complex audio-visual experience, featuring a mix of frequent darkness and vivid colors, including bright red, and it featured one of the most aggressive, immersive, intense sound mixes I've ever heard. Predictably, this 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation and French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack can't live up to that experience. For the most part, visuals are decent, capturing most of the vivid palette without any problem. Bold red, especially immersed in a deep black, can often cause bleeding problems for DVD (no pun intended), but they seem stable here. Blacks, on the other hand, appear a touch crushed, and there is a degree of softness to the picture. No untoward banding or artifacting caught my eye, although the frame is so active that it's hard to believe the film would even be still long enough to spot any artifacts.

The bigger disappointment for me was the 5.1 audio, which generally sounds nice, but can get a little muffled and flat on the extreme ends of the spectrum. It's impossible to describe how important the audio is to the style of Strange Color, battering the viewer with intimate, detailed noises, such as a knife crawling up leather or each squeak of a door. The directionality of the track is decent, but the clarity of the sounds themselves is a bit muted or softened by the jump to standard definition. Strong, but for a film like this, it feels like more work could've been done. English subtitles are also provided.

The Extras
None, other than the film's original theatrical trailer. Trailers for You and the Night, Wetlands, Love is the Devil, Post Tenebras Lux, and Stranger By the Lake are also included.

Giallo fans will probably find it impossible to resist checking the movie out, but it's an extremely mixed bag, pairing virtuoso technique with, well, little else. There are sights and sounds in the movie that were probably worth sitting through the movie to see, but this is a rental at best (and I recommend the Blu-ray version for the full A/V experience).

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