heavy editing, for 90 minutes.
But homage ends there. Cattet and Forzani all but ignore the other characteristics that make the giallo genre so easy to distinguish — the dependably terrible (and unnecessary) dubbing, the affinity for whodunit storytelling, the predisposition toward choosing a final girl and seeing what she does to survive — and turn Amer into a uniquely sensorial, aesthetically commanding work of art.
This means, then, that anything by way of coherence is lost in the shuffle. There is no story to be found and no set of defined characters to help guide us. All we can tell is that Amer is about a woman named Ana (whom we see mature from rambunctious elementary school girl to lusciously lipped adult) and her sexual awakening. Maybe. The feature, more or less, is nonsensical.
One could say that most giallo masterpieces were incomprehensible anyway, and that Amer’s haziness isn’t so out of the blue. A genre classic like Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) was a hurricane of nightmarish Technicolor that had something to do with the unspeakable evils of a coven. Similarly, Sergio Martino’s The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971) was a cocktail of blackened sexuality tangled up with a nefarious scheme.
But at least these aforementioned films tried to tether their grandiose style to some sort of a plot. Amer, by contrast, chooses the all-style-and-no-substance route. Because Cattet and Forzani are inspired visual storytellers, they’re almost able to get away it. But not quite.
The road to Amer is perhaps more compelling than the film itself; it took Cattet and Forzani nine years to get the movie produced. Following their marriage in 1997, Cattett and Forzani started making short films together in 2000, working odd jobs and living in shabby apartments to support themselves and their passions. Their pieces produced with micro-budgets, filmed wherever they were living at the time and with friends serving as the actors, they unyieldingly struggled to see their artistic dreams flourish.
Then a miracle came in the form of Eve Commenge. Commenge, a Belgian producer, believed in the filmmaking team so greatly that she specifically started a company to help fund what would become Amer, their first feature film. Once French co-producer François Cognard hopped on board, all came together swimmingly, even though the film ended up costing much less than what Cattet and Forzani had originally intended.
Amer isn’t the sort of movie that requires much money to affect, though: It so beautifully uses the human body (in extreme close-up, most of the time) and shadowy interiors as means of putting us in a cinematic trance that additional flash is unneeded. We wonder what kind of film it would be if Cattet and Forzani had as much money as Mario Bava at the height of his career. (Maybe one with a storyline?) But such doesn’t much cross our minds. Amer is its own self-contained assault on the senses, though admittedly its relentlessly playing up to our eyes and our ears tires as we start to wish for something concrete. B
Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud
Bianca Maria D'Amato
1 Hr., 30 Mins.
Amer August 31, 2017
mer (2009) is the rare pastiche that only partially feels like a pastiche. Most evidently, the film’s co-writers and directors, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, are paying tribute to the Italian giallo thrillers of the 1970s, dedicated to further exploring the genre’s obsession with the destruction of beautiful women, black gloves, psychedelic cinematography, baroque, slithery scoring, and breakneck, crosscut-