The two best adjectives for The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears are ‘colourful’ and ‘strange’. The colour might hold the attention for so long, but the strangeness of the piece may alienate. Is it too strange? Not for hardened fans of gialli, but the repetition of tics and even entire sequences may be a problem. Still, any good giallo foregrounds colour over good sense, which makes The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears a success in spite of itself.
Directors Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani carved a niche for themselves with several shorts and their calling-card feature debut Amer, and there’s no sign of them deviating from that niche with The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears. It masquerades as an erotically-charged mystery, but it’s best experienced at a more basic, atmospheric level. The plot, such as it is, begins with Dan (Klaus Tange) returning to his apartment from a business trip. He turns the key in his door, but it’s locked from the inside. He calls for his wife, yet she’s nowhere to be found. One forced entry and a call to the police later, Dan is no closer to the answers, and thus begins a plunge into a colourful unknown, like Alice through the looking glass but with more bloodshed.
Horror is a constant and wonderful dichotomy. It aims to jolt, frighten, even horrify. Yet there are so many examples of the genre that aspire to art in their design. Argento constantly walked the fine line between horror and art, and Cattet and Forzani continue that fine tradition of the gialli. One of the most memorable sequences sees a gloved hand teasing a knife blade around a nipple, before plunging it into the unfortunate victim. Shot in stark yet crisp black and white by Manuel Dacosse, the sequence shocks and surprises on its first appearance, but after a while the whole sequence appears again. And again. Why? As with the films it references, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears has gaps where a narrative would normally be found, and must plug said gaps as artily as possible.
The repetition is unsurprisingly numbing, and it points to the flaws at the core of TSCOYBT. It is a homage first and a standalone film second. Cattet and Forzani’s love for slashers and gialli is evident in every frame, from the over-designed art deco staircases to the eye-popping greens and reds that flood the screen. Flesh and blades are given a neon glow; pause at certain moments and you’ll believe you’re looking at a particularly sacrilegious stained glass window, such is the sheen of it all. Yet the artistry of the film is uninterested in the plot, to the point that it practically gives up on narrative to stand alone. The plot does roll along to a point, as Dan continues his investigations into his other half’s absence, and he discovers that such disappearances are nothing new to the apartment complex. Still, anyone looking for plot will be left adrift as the film progresses. It’s a sensory experience through and through, with artistry and aspirations far beyond most anyone else working in the horror genre today. The hardened horror heads should have no beef with that; the uninitiated are invited to surrender to the film and be done with it. Woe to they that refuse the offer.