The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
by Hope Madden
For a Belgian film, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears sure feels Italian.
Married writing/directing team Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani appear to be fans of Italian horror – the gaillo style of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, in particular. Their more memorable films had a dreamlike quality, and often boasted vivid colors and superb cinematography. Almost invariably their storylines were mysteries wherein an unknown marauder in black leather gloves picked off beautiful women in particularly bloody fashion.
Or, for Cattet and Forzani: check, check, check and check.
Bava and especially Argento have often been criticized for the overt sexuality and misogyny of their work, but Cattet and Forzani are not among the critics. Indeed, their film takes all those elements Bava and Argento are known for, amps them up, then basically drops the idea of any coherent narrative. The result is a visually arresting fantasy of blood and sexuality.
A man returns from a business trip abroad to find that his wife is missing, but the chain was on the door, so how is that even possible? He promptly drinks himself into a stupor, harasses his neighbors, then begins collecting weird clues. There ends any sense of narrative structure.
From there expect a lot of heavy breathing, ornately decorated bedrooms, hidden passageways, and characters with suspicious backgrounds and nefarious motives. Plus a lot of nudity and plenty of blood.
Cattet and Forzani display an imaginative and commanding directorial style. The film’s serpentine structure suits the almost unconnected scenes, saturated with color and surreal imagery. They’ve created a truly dreamlike quality with a film rich with bizarre and provocative ideas. And had their film been a short, or even a sixty minute exercise, it would have been quite a product. Unfortunately, it runs for 102 minutes.
Long before the film is over the novelty may wear off, as well as the astonishment with the directorial mastery. It begins to feel like a bad dream that is no longer very scary, just tiresome in that it won’t end. Maybe a few additional themes or ideas would help, as the film circles back so often to the same cycles of images that it grows wearying. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears is a fine cinematic experiment, just not an entirely successful one.