There was a point in time in where I was trying to watch more gialli. My experience of the giallo has been limited mostly to Mario Bava, Dario Argento and early Lucio Fulci and I wanted to branch out a bit. I made a list of gialli that I chose based on title alone (with titles like What Have You Done to Solange? and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key). I only made it part way through the list before moving on to other things, and I really need to get back to it.
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears was on the list. I just added things by title, so I didn’t realize it was a film made in 2013 until I loaded it. I decided to watch it anyway, as the title alone suggested some familiarity with (and appreciation of) the genre. I thought it might be fun to see a modern interpretation of the giallo. Little did I know what I was in for.
The filmmakers, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, had made a previous giallo, Amer (which I have not yet seen), and have an obvious love and appreciation for the genre. Your experience of the film may rely quite a bit on your love and appreciation of the same.
The filmmakers have since made a Western, Let the Corpses Tan, which is now on my list as well. If it’s anything like this film it’ll be something to see!
I have the bare-bones Blu-ray from Strand Releasing. The picture quality is fantastic and the primary purpose for this film, so that works out. The only ‘extra’ is a trailer. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears isn’t available for streaming for subscriptions anywhere at the moment, though you can rent and purchase it from Amazon, Google and YouTube.
Okay, so, I’m going to tell you the basic plot of The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, but believe me when I say it’s the least important or interesting thing about the film. Dan Kristensen (Klaus Tange) returns from a business trip to find his wife missing. As he investigates her disappearance and interacts with the apartment building’s other residents he becomes embroiled in dark secrets, sex, and violence.
You know how in cooking you can create a reduction of something – a sauce, wine or juice – to create a thicker, intensified version of the substance? That’s what this movie is. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani have made a movie that is reduced to the essential elements of a giallo – gloves, blades, sex, violence, intense imagery and sounds. Plot and character have always been somewhat superfluous to the genre and they only exist here to give the dazzling displays of eyeballs, nudity, colors and blood something to cling to, like a trellis that holds an overgrown vine.
It’s an intoxicating mix – especially at first, as you struggle to figure out the mystery along with the strangely passive and flat-affected Dan. The mystery is not the point, however, and at roughly the time that Dan is drugged by a beautiful woman upstairs (who then proceeds to make love to him with shards of glass between their bodies) you start to feel like you’ll be better off if you just let go of any attempt to impose a narrative on the barrage of strangeness.
There are stories in the mix – vignettes of violence that other people seem compelled to share with Dan – but they confuse both Dan and us. Are they part of the mystery or merely vehicles for the filmmakers to assault us with different filmmaking techniques? I’d like to think there’s a larger purpose to the weirdness – something involving a woman (or multiple women) named Laura – but I’m just as convinced that the film is intended to be a giallo experience, a thrill ride in which the point is the journey, not the destination.
It’s the images and bizarre sequences that will stick with you after the film is over, not whatever story there is. A woman whose eyes change color to match her jewelry, head wounds reminiscent of vaginas, an extended (dream?) sequence in which Dan is awakened and stalked by himself, stained glass windows that turn into kaleidoscopes, a hat box that is sometimes empty and sometimes not. After a while the endless stream of bizarre imagery overwhelms and then blunts your appreciation. It goes on too long and by the time the ending finally arrives I had already tired of the whole thing. Reduce something too much and it all starts to taste the same after a while.
The Bottom Line
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears is worth a viewing, if only for the assault on your eyes and ears. It really does feel like the essence of the giallo (right down to the sound of stretching leather that seems to accompany both sex and murder) and you do feel like the filmmakers have a love an appreciation of the genre. It overstays its welcome, however, and you may come to realize that stylish sex and violence can’t sustain a film all on their own.