A brutal concoction of sound, color, sex and fury, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears has big ambitions and, for the most part, succeeds in bringing those ambitions to the screen. Few horror films in recent memory have been so intricately crafted and even fewer have had such brazen and fearless style. While on more than one occasion the film loses its way and dangerously straddles the line between the avant garde and the pretentious, filmmakers Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani have enough tricks up their sleeves to create both a loving homage to the giallo classics of yore as well as a full blooded horror film with a distinctive style of its own.
The nightmarish visuals are tied together with a fairly simple story about a man, Dan (Klaus Tange), searching for his missing wife in the mysterious depths of their strange apartment building. With little to go on other than cryptic rumors from odd neighbors, Dan discovers a secret world of fetish and bloodshed of which his wife is a willing participant. This admittedly bare narrative serves more as a device to express what Cattet and Foranzi describe as a “cinematic orgasm”, an intense collage of specific sound design, erotic images and graphic violence. It is difficult to fully understand what is on display here without seeing it in motion; The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears embraces the obvious influence of giallo masters like Dario Argento but many of the stylistic choices are unique to Cattet, Foranzi and cinematographer Manuel Dacosse. Distorted photography, extreme close-ups, slow motion and a vast color palette all lend to creating a truly surreal visual style that both sells the film's deeper themes of fetishism while also working on a simple, professionally polished level.
This is not to say that such polish and style come without a price; the precisely crafted approach that is the film’s supreme asset is also its weakness. Some scenes are too buried in frantic editing or jarringly loud Italian rock music to make real impact, even considering the flourishes one expects from such a film. There are no real characters here, only ciphers and while it works for the most part, there is no emotional core to the film. Unlike many typical giallo, there is no focus on a Hitchcockian style mystery and any revelations coming from Dan’s search are pretty obvious from the outset. The viewer’s experience is mostly dependent on a willingness to embrace style over nuance, if not necessarily substance. But…what style it is, and for every misstep, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears recovers with a tense, beautifully orchestrated set piece full of energy. I was able to look past the many warts but not everyone may be so forgiving.
So few horror films these days strive to offer more than the minimum requirements of the genre. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears shows a fearless commitment to play by its own rules while evoking a bygone era; that fact alone makes it impossible not to recommend to horror fans.
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