The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears (L'etrange couleur des larmes de ton corps): Locarno Review



A film as stylish as it is narratively labyrinthine

Brussels-based directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani deliver another homage to Italian gialli, though this time thoroughly drenched in not only blood but also Brussels architecture.

LOCARNO -- Brussels-based directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (Amer) apply their neo-giallo style to a gory and intricately told story, set almost exclusively inside a sumptuous Art Nouveau building in the Belgian capital, in the appropriately surreal The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (L’etrange couleur des larmes de ton corps).

Though part of the international competition at the recent Locarno Film Festival, Tears is a rather specialized genre item that will please a small niche audience but will leave regular arthouse audiences baffled and exhausted rather than enchanted. The film has been picked up for distribution in co-producing Belgium, France and Luxembourg and has also wooed U.K. distributor Metrodome, though home-viewing sales will clearly top theatrical revenues. The next stop on the film’s festival tour is Toronto, where it’ll be part of the Vanguard section.

A Danish man (Klaus Tange) comes home from the airport to find that the door to his apartment — in a building that suggests architect Victor Horta in his Lady Gaga period — is locked from the inside but that his wife’s not home. Intercut with his homecoming are black-and-white photographs, animated through rudimentary stop-motion photography, of a naked woman being caressed by something that looks like a dagger. Things grow even more surreal when the protagonist goes to the top floor of his building to visit a lace-clad widow whose face remains hidden in the shadows and whose late husband also disappeared.

How the puzzle pieces fit together will slowly be revealed, though many -- too many -- psychedelic detours are in store first, a lot of them relying on the hypnotic qualities of the building’s Art Nouveau design and the insistent and inventive soundscape. The naturally curvy lines of Belgian Art Nouveau form a somewhat odd but rather effective foreshadowing of and, later, backdrop to the plentiful naked female bodies that any giallo worth its salt must feature.

Though the multilingual Tears also comments on Brussels as a melting pot and crossroads where the rational Germanic northerners meet the uncontrollable passions of the Latin-influenced southerners, the main point of the film remains its style, which is so constantly and loudly reinforced that it’s often hard to concentrate on the story. Cinematography, editing and production design all impress as stand-alone items, though when the mystery’s finally solved, it’s something of a letdown to realize that the filmmakers needed 102 minutes to tell a tale that simple.

Like in Amer, giallo trappings abound and there are references to Italian films from especially the 1970s, not only in the visuals but especially on the soundtrack, which is again filled with pre-existing pieces of Italian composers such as Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai.

Venue: Locarno Film Festival (Competition)
Production companies: Anonymes Films, Tobina Film, Epidemic, Red Lion, Mollywood
Cast: Klaus Tange, Jean-Michel Vovk, Sylvia Camarda, Sam Louwyck, Anna D’Annunzio, Manon Beuchot, Ursula Bedena, Birgit Yew, Hans de Munter
Writer-directors: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Producers: Eve Commenge, François Cognard
Co-producers: Eurydice Gysel, Koen Mortier, Pol Cruchten, Jeanne Geiben
Director of photography: Manu Dacosse
Production designer: Julia Irribarria
Costume designer: Jackye Fauconier
Editor: Bernard Beets
Sales: Bac Films
No rating, 102 minutes