Movie Review - The Strange Color

Movie Review - The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (or L'étrange Couleur des Larmes de Ton Corps) is French writers / directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's visually stunning nod to the Italian Giallo films made popular in the 60's and 70's. For anyone unfamiliar with the genre and style, I have attached a bit of history to give you an idea of what you're in for, because I find describing it to be extremely difficult. Giallo films combine traditional story telling with a much more abstract approach to the narrative, and this film is a fine example of just how effective these films can be, both visually and emotionally. The movie is bold, titillating, and extremely sexy. This film is amazing, but certainly not for everyone. But if you enjoy the works of Dario Argento and Mario Bava, I highly recommend you see this film. It's currently available on VOD and in select theaters. Here's some background on the style:

Giallo films are generally characterized as gruesome murder-mystery thrillers that combine the suspense elements of a Hitchcock film with scenes of shocking horror featuring excessive bloodletting, stylish camerawork, and often jarring musical arrangements. The standard plot, used in countless films, involves a mysterious, black-gloved psychopathic killer who stalks and butchers a series of beautiful women. The literary whodunit element of the Giallo novels is retained, while being filtered through Italy’s longstanding tradition of opera and staged grand Guignol drama. While most Giallos involve a human killer, some also feature a supernatural element.

The killings are invariably violent and gory, featuring a wide variety of explicit and imaginative death. Frequently (though not always), the murders will take place from the first-person perspective of the killer, with the black-gloved hand holding a knife being presented from the killer’s point of view, arguably adding an element of voyeurism. These murders often occur when the victim is most vulnerable (showering, taking a bath, or scantily clad). As such, Giallo films often include liberal amounts of nudity and sex, with several actresses becoming strongly associated with the genre including Edwige Fenech, Barbara Bach, Daria Nicolodi, Barbara Bouchet, Suzy Kendall, Ida Galli, and Anita Strindberg. The association of female sexuality and brutal violence has led some commentators to accuse the genre of misogyny.

Giallos are frequently associated with strong technical cinematography and stylish visuals. Critic Maitland McDonagh describes the visuals of Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) as, “vivid colors and bizarre camera angles, dizzying pans and flamboyant tracking shots, disorienting framing and composition, fetishistic close-ups of quivering eyes and weird objects (knives, dolls, marbles, braided scraps of wool)...” In addition to the iconic images of shadowy black-gloved killers and gruesome violence, Gialli also frequently employ strongly stylized and even occasionally surreal uses of color. Directors Dario Argento and Mario Bava are particularly known for their impressionistic imagery and use of lurid colors, though other Giallo directors (notably Lucio Fulci) employed more sedate, realistic styles as well.

When a man returns home to find that his wife has mysteriously disappeared, he finds himself lost in a twisted maze of secret hallways behind the walls in his apartment building. When it seems as if the police are not taking him seriously he begins to come unraveled in his search to find her. Did she leave, or has she been taken? He is sent running in circles by cryptic messages from his neighbors and becomes more and more obsessed as he descends further into madness. Has his wife been murdered? And will he befall the same fate, or will he be able to untangle the web of mystique in time to save himself?

The acting in the movie is good, but almost seems inconsequential because the visual presentation is so striking. The color palette alone is so overwhelmingly vivid, it's mesmerizing. The cinematography is impactful, and alternates between stark, violent sexual imagery and kaleidoscope hallucinations. The directors manage to masterfully orchestrate each of the different visual styles into a symphony of light and dark. The score is reminiscent of some of the more intoxicating work of Goblin or Riz Ortolani, and provides the perfect counterpoint to the visual aspects of the movie. This is a truly visceral piece of film making. Well worth the price of admission. Enjoy. Cheers.

Grade B.

-Leo Francis