All Things Horror: The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

From the start, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears drew me in. Reading the description, looking at the stills online, I was intrigued, excited. Surrealism, gialli and what the lovely, lovely kids at BUFF call “visual flair”?! Sign. Me. Up. Stop-Motion, murder and a soundtrack featuring Ennio Morricone? Be right back, gotta go have a filmgasm.

But my expectations couldn’t have been more wrong. I haven’t wanted to lay on the floor of a theatre and scream and sob in frustration and boredom this bad since I got dragged to a screening of Nacho Libre (okay, I dragged myself, but I was in college and boy howdy was I stoned). Confusion compiled with irritation, irritation gave disappointment a compound fracture, and I struggled to stay awake in the face of the wasted potential of this tale.

It’s been a week exactly since I’ve seen the film, and I have to say it hasn’t made terrible much more sense to me since then. This isn’t your run of the mill Lynchian surreality, where you wake up in a cold sweat at 4am and frantically explain Mullholland Drive to your boyfriend in a fever dream state. Nor is this the more simplistic visual metaphor of Un Chien Andalou. Significantly more Surrealism-and-Noir-have-a-three-way-with-French-New-Wave, it’s avoids any label, a deconstruction of a reconstruction of anything and everything. It’s madness, pure and simple – and I suspect that’s just what it’s creators were getting at.

Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani both wrote and directed the piece – you probably know them from their previous feature, Amer, or their contribution to the ABC’s of Death: O is for Orgasm. I haven’t seen Amer, but I adored O – a similar amalgamation of near-wordless imagery and bizarre implications. But what worked in 3 minutes is tedious in 102. What is charming and meditative in small doses turns into a test of one’s patience and zen focus when stretched to feature length. But despite my emotions toward it, I suspect this tactic is well-thought-out; what they do works perfectly for the story.

Dan (Klaus Tange) returns from a business trip to discover he is locked out of his own apartment. Kicking the door in, he discovers the rooms empty and his wife Edwige missing, but her prize possessions still in place. In investigating Edwige’s disappearance, Dan discovers the collection of curious characters his apartment building houses, each episode with them a tiny story unto itself, each apartment a different genre for Dan to get lost in. And lost is indeed what he gets. Dan’s sanity unravels throughout the film, a frustrating descent that the increasingly agitating sights and sounds provoke in Strange Color’s viewers. Following Dan down the rabbit hole is exhausting, a mentally taxing foray that leaves one on edge for hours after.

Now, don’t get me wrong; there is a lot to love about The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears. And, as I said above, a whole mysterious crawl space filled with potential. Fellow ATH-writer Dede really loved this piece, and when we caught up briefly, there was one point we agreed on: Strange Color is nothing if not visually remarkable. I have a pretty high bar after the rigors of film school, but I wouldn’t hesitate to call this film visually stunning. Light, shadow and color all come out to play on a set that just won’t quit, all art deco curls and murals that are simultaneously gorgeous and sinister. The cinematography is deliciously lush, every shot captured by Manuel Dacosse making my inner shot-whore weak in the knees. To top it, the performances are spot on, not a sour note in the bunch, the stop-motion segments enchantingly creepy, and I imagine the editing was good for what they were looking for.

Which, clearly, was not what I was looking for. Oh, guys, I really wanted to love this film, really I did. So much of the factors were on my do-want list, from the spooky plot to the visuals to the weirdo twists and the music… but, god, it just didn’t work for me! The increasing agitation of Dan’s mind, shown through repeated, stark images and blaring sound put my teeth on edge; the loose association of the script and mental leaps of the story were just past the point of acceptable. Films can be freaky, and weird, and art and trash and everything in between. They can be dumb entertainment or cerebral discussions. But the goal of movies is to serve as escapism, whatever form that may take for the viewer – humour, gore, drama, anime, whatever. But if the film is more tiring for the viewer than real life – well, in my mind, that’s a failure. And that’s what Strange Color was for me – an unpleasant wait until the end. It might be different for other viewers; they might see escapism and joy where I saw frustration and pain. And I really hope so. Because despite it all, what I really want? It’s still for this movie to be a success.

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    Andrea Wolanin