The Strange Colour Of Your Body's Tears


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

 "There are homages" in The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears
"For all that its often said "they don't make them like they used to" this is very, very close."

Design is the real star of Strange Colour. The stark red and black titles and credits, the stuttering black and white sequences that open the film, the looping narrative with parenthetic flash-backs and the apartment building most of it takes place in, that last a treasure - ornate stained glass, windows, opulent staircases, all marble and marquetry, an architectural delight.

Possessing the kind of psychogeography that makes the Overlook Hotel such a challenge to cartographers, the building is home to any number of secrets. The first and most pressing of these being the whereabouts of Dan Kristensen's wife.

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This is a mystery, recursively so - each revelation more laden with iconography and portending apocalypse than the next. There's violence aplenty - not just physical, but an assault on the audience. There's no shortage of sexualised violence, bloody wounds - a king once feared his body was made of glass, and there is aftermath akin to a courtly coital catastrophe. While the score is great, unsurprisingly given how much of it is repurposed work by Ennio Morricone, there are moments of squalling noise, an imposed tinnitus. In the public screening your reviewer attended there were at least six walkouts.

There's counter-balance. There's some beautiful framing, both visually and within the script. The stories being told form a psychosexual collage; kaleidoscopic sequences, while pretty, just serve to labour the point. From the off, the opening sequence, there is a sense of imbalance - here the camera serves an unreliable narrator. Symbolism abounds, there's no shortage of colours - red, blue, and green wash over the screen, distortions both visual and psychic. Through it run motifs - glass, mirrors, gloves, stories - remove and reflection, distortion of sensation.

There are some striking moments - a hat-box concealing a disturbing toy-chest, the white-room, the eye at the hole. At other moments the Freudianism becomes a little laboured - sometimes a cigar, and all that - but there's rhyme if not reason to the spread from the pornographic magazine Plaisir.

It's not quite dateless - it's certainly old-fashioned, taking place in a rambling Art Deco rather than Gothic pile, there are mobile telephones but not smart phones (and one wonders how much influence funding partners Orange had upon that) micro-cassettes in answering machines and reel to reel tapes in cupboards. In truth the things we see are things that look good - even the pinched and harried face of Klaus Tange seems selected for its range and distinctiveness. One looping sequence of discord sees him both pursued and pursuer, and for all that the palette changes there are physical differences. There's red, blue, green, of course, but the overwhelming shade is giallo - as with Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet's outing Amer this is not so much an affectionate tribute as a, well, pastiche is unkind and homage isn't quite accurate. Perhaps simulacrum would suffice, because for all that its often said "they don't make them like they used to" this is very, very close.

The title leaves a little room for speculation. "Doueleur" seems to have been substituted with "Couleur" en Anglais, such that "pain" becomes "colour". Either is fitting, but the latter brings a little something extra to the ring.

There's an archness here, a furrowed-brow earnestness, and while it's playing with audience perception and capably so it never quite feels playful. Laboured, rather than ludic, grim where it could perhaps do with a touch of glee. If you're a fan of the genre then this is commended to you, a stylish outing full of splendours that justify the big screen, but its artfulness may well leave you cold.

Reviewed on: 23 Feb 2014
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A woman's disappearance forms the central mystery in this visually stylish neo-giallo.
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Director: Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani

Writer: Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani

Starring: Klaus Tange, Jean-Michel Vovk, Sylvia Camarda, Sam Louwyck, Anna D’annunzio, Manon Beuchot

Year: 2013

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Belgium, France, Luxembourg

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