Perhaps it’s fitting that Bruno Forzani’s wife and co-director Hélène Cattet was absent from his Q&A at the recent AFI Fest in Hollywood, since their latest film THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS is all about a missing spouse.

As a diehard giallo groupie and a style-over-substance apologist, this writer absolutely adored the Belgian couple’s highly stylized feature-length debut, AMER (2009). After deeming their “O Is for Orgasm” the best thing in last year’s THE ABC’s OF DEATH, I was beyond ready to catch THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS at the AFI Fest—the final film on my 15-flick itinerary. Before the screening began, Forzani, clad casually in jeans and an EXORCIST/Regan T-shirt, introduced himself to the packed house and sent Cattet’s regrets, then said, “For 11 years we totally burned ourselves to make this movie, and so I hope it will burn you too.”

Not timid, THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS opens right up with black leather, knives, nipples, a naked child’s doll, ropes and bondage. B&D, however, is the only form of restraint you’ll see in the next hour and a half: an elegant explosion of bizarre beauty, black and white smash-cut against über-saturated hues of red, blue and green, THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS is a bullet to the brain at the very least.

The story, such as it is, basically follows Dan (Klaus Tange), a traveling businessman who has returned to the opulent apartment he shares with his wife, only to find her gone and the door chained from the inside. While that may sound like a case for Sherlock Holmes, the plot is beside the point: here we enter an art nouveau wonderland fraught with danger, delirium and, yes, death.

After the movie was over—on the screen, if not in the viewers’ minds—Forzani returned to answer a few questions. The heightened hues were a hot topic, and the director revealed that he and Cattet actually argued over this; he favored blues, while she preferred green. Red, of course, was their agreed homage to their hero, Dario Argento. Auteur David Lynch was an inspiration too, but it was the amazing antique apartment building in Brussels which emerged as their most influential muse. “We think this art nouveau structure gives an oneiric, dreamlike aspect to the movie,” he said. “These 19th-century houses [nestled] inside a modern city inspired us to create a universe with no period boundaries.”

Regarding the obvious giallo gushes, Forzani conceded, “You can find some of those influences in our work, same as in Brian De Palma’s DRESSED TO KILL. There are some bits and pieces of giallo in the beginning of THE BURNING, or in movies such as RIPPER: LETTER FROM HELL and Pedro L. Barbero’s TUNO NEGRO.”

And when asked about experimental favorites, he added, “Of course MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON by Maya Deren. We also love SCORPIO RISING by Kenneth Anger, UN CHANT D’AMOUR by Jean Genet, THE DEAD MAN 2: RETURN OF THE DEAD MAN by Aryan Kaganoff, THE BIG SHAVE by Martin Scorsese, MAMORI by Karl Lemieux. There are lots of them…Guy Maddin.”

If STRANGE COLOURS’ imagery is a kaleidoscope, then the music is a collage. As in AMER, the pair uses stings and themes from existing Italian horror and crime scores by the likes of Riz Ortolani, Bruno Nicolai, Guido and Maurizio de Angelis and Ennio Morricone. Forzani and Cattet’s signature sighs, chants and cardiac drumbeats round out the soundscape.

As Dan discovers secret passages, hidden hallways and concealed attics in the search for his wife, one can’t help but think of movies like THE TENANT, INFERNO, CRAWLSPACE et al. “We tell an intimate story and we develop a personal universe through this vocabulary,” Forzani explained. “We don’t see our films only as homages—it’s just one aspect.” As with that mysterious, metaphoric edifice in which the characters live and die, he adds, “There is something behind the surface.”

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Staci Layne Wilson
Redhead. Raconteur. Mannequin enthusiast.
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