From its arthouse title to its opening act, drawing heavily on Dario Argento’s color palette and prog-rock scores, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears announces itself as a meta-genre movie, aimed pretty squarely at fans of giallo and exploitation, though straddling a line into the uncanny just enough to please the David Lynch and Bunuel fans in the crowd.
It is, by turns, gorgeous, scary, slightly gory, disturbing, overwrought, brilliant, smarter than it thinks, and unfortunately, for long sections, unjustifiably dull. The easily squicked-out and those wanting a straight forward narrative should probably skip it, but there’s a lot to hold your interest if you’re on its wavelength. Most of the time.
We meet telecom rep-of-some-variety Dan returning from a business trip, trying to reach his wife on the phone without luck. She’s not at the apartment either, which he has to break into since the chain lock is on, though no one’s home. The rest of the film is his search for her, a journey that reveals all kinds of hidden evils and mysteries in the building they live in, and in the dangerously linked private lives of its residents.
The film draws and occasionally comments on the giallo genre of horror/thriller, most prominent in the 70s and associated with directors like Argento, Bava, Fulci, and others. A typical characteristic is the gloved hand of the murderer, which we see on screen without knowing which of the characters it belongs to – a trope used really effectively here.
Another key aspect is the notion that investigations into murder or other gruesome crimes tend to reveal secrets, even ones unrelated to the central mystery. The detective, like the audience, is a voyeur, which is maybe why cameras and recordings feature so prominently in these films (not to mention eye-stabbings, that Italian horror specialty).
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears zeroes in on these themes, playing them for nervous laughs (as when a character drills an eye-sized hole in the ceiling and someone else sticks lit matches through them, to help him see in the rafters) and accentuating them through jagged editing, DePalma-esque split-screens, shots that evoke Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, German expressionism, and much else besides. Its technique and images are both sexy and infused with dread.
I haven’t seen Cattet and Forzani’s previous film Amer, which many commenters view as superior to this one, but The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears is still an evocative if overlong genre exercise. By the fourth time we see the same shot of a knife brushing an erect nipple, it’s clear the directors could’ve killed a few of their darlings and improved the film.
Still, if you’re a fan of gialli or any of the directors mentioned above, you should check it out. If you prefer your cinema without self-aware arthouse trappings and significantly fewer crotch-stabbings, you probably should look elsewhere.