Writers: Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Cast: Klaus Tange, Ursula Bedena, Joe Koener
Running time: 99mins
The lowdown: After their five star debut Amer, Belgian directing duo Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani return with this second giallo inspired thriller. Experts at riffing on the look and feel of those 60s and 70s Italian murder mysteries, Cattet and Forzani construct another visually sumptuous, darkly sexual and graphically violent mind scramble, following the misadventures of a man searching for his missing wife in a Belgian apartment building. Brilliant and frustrating, but maybe time for the Belgian directors to bring a little emotion to their precise, beautiful formalism.
The full verdict: At one time the giallo was Italy’s prime cinematic export, after Dario Argento created a global sensation with his classic thriller The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.
Interesting then that this once mainstream genre has become an art film darling, with Amer, Berberian Sound Studio and now The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears going all abstract with giallo conventions.
Cattet and Forzani’s sophomore movie is the most fractured homage yet and best taken as a series of vignettes based on giallo themes of misplaced love ones, unreliable memories, violent eroticised murder, mysterious black leather clad killers and dark familial secrets.
A barebones plot recap has haunted faced Dan Kristensen (Tange) returning to his Belgian apartment to find his wife vanished, his door bolted from the inside and few clues on offer other than cryptic, menacing phone messages.
A police detective proves ineffectual, typically for giallo, leaving Dan to investigate the odd occurrences in the stark, labyrinthine apartment building to solve the riddle.
Cattet and Forzani fire every visual and aural weapon in their arsenal at the (wide)screen. Characters are menaced not just by knives, but by camera angles, colour schemes, split screens and frame composition that threaten to throw them into one of the movie’s many kaleidoscope effects.
All set, like in Amer, to greatest hits soundtrack culled from classic giallo, used in lieu of dialogue in a film sparse on the chatter.
Freudian symbolism hangs so heavy in the air you can practically smell the cigar smoke: the apartment building (that has the unnerving habit of absorbing its tenants) may be the mind of either protagonist or antagonist, knives and leather are fetishised in repeated, loving close up and the reason for the mayhem may be a dark sexual awakening years earlier.
Absent are the character, excitement, outrageous plotting (that always kind of tied up) and humour that make giallo so enduring over forty years later.
The Belgians just about get away with reworking their formal obsessions a second time, but they’ll need to embrace character and plot soon lest their knife loses a little of its edge.