Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment

Format: DVD

Release date: 17 January 2011

Distributor: Optimum

Director: Karel Reisz

Writer: David Mercer

Cast: David Warner, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Stephens, Irene Handl

UK 1966

93 mins

Morgan Delt is a troubled artist. His muse has deserted him. His wife has deserted him. His politics have deserted him. Even his sanity is deserting him. Morgan is a suitable case for treatment. Karel Reisz gave Morgan treatment - cinematically speaking - in 1966.

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment, or to give it the shortened American release title, Morgan! is an adaptation of an original 1962 television play by Wakefield-born Marxist writer and painter David Mercer entitled A Suitable Case for Treatment (starring Ian Hendry as Morgan and Keith Barron). Morgan is a script steeped in Marx and more importantly, the theories of R.D. Laing, whose claims included that the roots of schizophrenia were to be found in the family, and by extension, in society. He developed ideas of anti-psychiatry and claimed, for example, that ‘madness’ could be seen as a sane response to an insane world and argued such positions as: ‘Who poses the greater threat to society: the fighter pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima or the schizophrenic who believes the bomb is inside his own body?’

These ideas of Laing’s set in store a whole ideological wave among counter-culture ‘rebels’ in search of individualism, essentialism and anti-bourgeois life choices in the 60s. The generation who had just missed the ‘angry young men’ were now in thrall to the ‘it’s-ok-to-be-crazy in this insane world which our parents made’ attitude - a disposition that many misfit 60s characters displayed. The cultural battle cry was for authenticity of experience.

Concurrent with this anti-psychiatry of Laing’s was the interest in the disorientating effects of an LSD trip, which were likened to episodes of madness and were considered to be an entry point through the ‘doors of perception’. A cycle of visionary, anti-psychiatric, psychotropic oddball anti-hero films emerged in the mid-1960s to early 1970s, among them: Marat/Sade (1966), The King of Hearts (1966), The Trip (1967), I Love You Alice B. Toklas (1968), Catch 22 (1970), Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx (1970), End of the Road (1970), Family Life (1971, script by Laing and Mercer), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying those Terrible Things about Me? (1971), The Ruling Class (1972), Harold and Maude (1972) and later, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).

Morgan comes at an interesting intersection of filmic cycles in British cinema; cycles in which Czech-born director Karel Reisz had immersed himself. Reisz was, along with Lindsey Anderson and Tony Richardson, a veteran of the short-lived Free Cinema movement, which sought to bring a more poetic realism and a nouvelle vague-ish tone to socially concerned British commercial cinema. The Free Cinema movement had emphasised the marginal, the communal and the youthful in its documentary mode of filmmaking in films such as We Are the Lambeth Boys, Mama Don’t Allow, O Dreamland and Every Day Except Christmas. Free Cinema was itself much influenced by the Griersonian mode of documentary filmmaking as well as the British ‘social problem’ films, which had developed in the 1930s with works such as The Citadel and There Ain’t No Justice and carried on after the war with Cosh Boy, The Lost People or Good Time Girl.

This conjunction of cinematic verisimilitude and fictional narrative caused several of the Free Cinema directors to accept the challenge thrown down by Richard Hoggart in Sight&Sound to ‘expand the legitimacy of the limits [they] had imposed themselves… and take the opportunity to bring the “public” life of a young person into the “personal life” - to extend the “film essay” type of Free cinema project into the imaginative breadth and deeper artistic intentions possible in a full-length feature film’. So taking this on board, along with the ethos of location shooting, Reisz went off to Nottingham to shoot Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which became part of the canon of British New Wave (Social Realist or Kitchen Sink School) films, a cycle that had begun with Jack Clayton’s 1959 film, Room at the Top, and ended with Lindsey Anderson’s 1963 This Sporting Life. By that time, a wholly different zeitgeist dominated: Tom Jones, James Bond, the pill, ‘youth’, Beatles, Pop Art, Mod style, Swinging London, Carnaby Street, working-class mobility and, most important of all, the return of American investment. Soon, all of these youthful subcultures were to be blended and then superseded by the utopian ideal of an opted-out counter-culture replete with its own gurus and heroes such as Theodor Rozsak, Timothy Leary, Norman O. Brown and the aforementioned R.D. Laing.

With all of these influences and cultural winds in the air - and at the tail end of a cycle of Swinging London films - Reisz entered into the world of Laing and counter-culture cinema with Morgan. The tagline for the film makes the proposition clear: ‘Can one charming madman save the only thing in the real world that’s lived up to his best fantasies?’ Having opted out of the relatively sane world of art-making and gallery commerce, the working-class Morgan (David Warner) is in the throes of an existential, post-divorce mental breakdown. Still obsessed with his wife Leonie (Vanessa Redgrave), he spends most of the film stalking her, erratically appearing in her house and interfering in her new relationship with a very bourgeois gallery owner, Charles Napier (Robert Stephens), Morgan’s art dealer.

Morgan’s fractured personality soon regresses and becomes fixated on a new alter ego - that of a gorilla. He dons an ape costume and enacts the creature’s sounds and movements, which helps him to function in what he has come to believe is a more authentic, less complicated, primitivist mode of existence. It is a coping mechanism by which he can navigate and manage the ‘mad’ world of bourgeois respectability and repressive behaviours. He feels that only his mother, an unreconstructed Stalinist, has any genuine values, but she feels that Morgan is a sell-out. She refuses to ‘de-Stalinise’ and reminds Morgan: ‘Your dad wanted to shoot the royal family, abolish marriage and put everybody who’d been to a public school in a chain gang. He was an idealist, was your dad.’

A failure as an activist son, a failure as a bourgeois husband, a failure as an artist and a failure as a respectable member of society, Morgan’s anguish - and protest - takes the form of living in a car covered with Soviet propaganda posters outside of Leonie’s house, creating hammer and sickle shapes in a dog’s coat, pulling a gun on Napier, hectoring a policeman with a rant about Trotsky’s death, kidnapping Leonie with the aid of his dad’s wrestler friend, blowing up - not fatally - Leonie’s mother with a bomb hidden under the bed and dressing up as a bellowing gorilla. He gate-crashes and wrecks Leonie’s wedding day to Napier by scaling the walls of the building in full ape regalia, í  la King Kong, hoping to scoop up Leonie, his Fay Wray.

Morgan’s disturbed character lurches from sweet and charming naí¯f to thundering, raging gorilla beating his chest and trumpeting his fury. The film uses intercuts from Tarzan and King Kong films to make montages that emphasise the extent of Morgan’s fantasy life. At one point he muses: ‘If I’d been planted in the womb of a chimpanzee, none of this would have happened.’ The real world is to Morgan a jungle, as it seemed for many in the counter-culture. In the 60s, action and individual expression were more highly prized than motivation or conformity.

The characterisation of Morgan Delt is handled superbly well by David Warner - although it was Vanessa Redgrave who was nominated for a best actress award. In one of his most memorable and iconic roles, he brings a great deal of sympathy and warmth to the character - a character who should be seen as preposterous, annoying, disturbing and downright dangerous, and entirely undeserving of our empathy and support. Yet support and empathy his audience gave him, and Morgan is one of the great characters in the annals of counter-culture anti-heroes. The fact of his being creative - a mad artist type - gives him further cultural cachet. More than a relic of the period, Morgan is an interesting insight into the zeitgeist of the counter-cultural 60s.

In the final chapters of the film, Morgan (the gorilla), after trashing the wedding party escapes and ends up hallucinating on a Thames barge, finally being unceremoniously dumped on a bank side pile of scrap metal where he has his major and final psychotic episode. In the next scene, we see him in a countryside insane asylum working in a flower bed where he is busy planting a hammer and sickle garden shape. He receives a visit from his beloved ex-wife, who informs him that she is pregnant with his baby. Like the man said, ‘The freak shall inherit the earth’.

James Evans



Format: DVD + Blu-ray

Release date: 17 January 2011

Distributor: BFI

Directors: Joseph Despins and William Dumaresq

Writer: William Dumaresq

Cast: Kit Gleave, William Dumaresq, Erna May

UK 1971

75 mins

DVD/Blu-ray includes The Moon over the Alley (1975) by the same writer-director team.

In the 60s and 70s there existed a scatter of interesting writer/directors with leftfield ambitions that failed to exploit their true potential because they weren’t given the plums by the film industry establishment, and who either died tragically young and artistically unfulfilled, or sought refuge (and employment) in the more financially stable but anonymous world of television and advertising. But with every new format that comes along, there is a window of opportunity for rediscovery thanks to the fetishistic diligence of niche and peripheral distributors who pop up shop with a three-year lease. The BFI’s Flipside label is one, intent on creating an arcane collectors’ film label of forgotten oddities that came too soon, from auteurs that never were.

Directed by Joseph Despins and William Dumaresq, Duffer is an American Dreamer in London, a mop-topped, spotty face eyeing up mini-skirts on Hammersmith Bridge. Yet he’s no Yankee Billy Liar - narrating his day-to-day musings, his life is less comic despair than Oedipal nightmare. A paternal grotesque, Louis Jack, routinely beats him and later sodomises him, and on one occasion films worms slithering over his naked chest for his amateur cine porn. However, the boy remains sympathetic to his abuser, seeking comfort in the bed of a prostitute, Your Gracie. It’s not quite the familiar rites of passage one might find at the Hogwarts franchise.

Perhaps a surreal cousin to the same year’s Bronco Bullfrog (also recently released on the Flipside label) or Jerzy Skolimovski’s Deep End (1970), with a lingering, hand-held camera and extreme close-ups of non-professional faces that we no longer see on the screen. It’s a mixture of vérité naturalism and magical realism, shot, í  la nouvelle vague, at weekends on non-sync 16mm with a crew of three people, that suggests, very briefly, that our national cinema might have been heading in the right direction, were it not for the intervention, later that decade, of a group of young graduates from Collett Dickenson Pearce aiming Westward Ho for the midnight express train. Nostalgia enthusiasts will no doubt get misty-eyed at a scene showing the 28 Routemaster journey to Westbourne Park, and a John Menzies outlet at Paddington station.

Forming a late night double bill horror that would’ve played well in rotation at the Scala, the disc’s second feature, The Moon over the Alley, also shows Notting Hill when it was still a slum. A Brechtian musical for the multi-cultural dispossessed, with the ensemble cast breaking into Kinks-style kitchen-sink ditties, and cinematography by Peter Hannan, who would go on to shoot Withnail and I, this is far more than merely one of those council estate genre pieces that middle-brow critics have been sniffy about in recent times. It was directed by Despins and Dumaresq a few years later for the BFI Production Board, and with UKFC funding soon to revert back to the former, one hopes, albeit in vain, that British film can start dreaming like this again.

Robert Chilcott

Black Swan

Black Swan

Format: Cinema

Release date: 21 January 2011

Venues: nationwide

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Writers: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J. McLaughlin

Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey

USA 2010

110 mins

I love this movie to death! To pinch myself to see if I was dreaming, I attended a second showing during the 2010 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival with my wife and 9-year-old-daughter in tow. Bearing a passing resemblance to The Addams Family we settled in for an evening of prime family entertainment. I wasn’t dreaming. Black Swan is exactly the sort of film we’ll all look upon as a milestone in cinema history. It’s Powell/Pressburger’s The Red Shoes meets Mankiewicz’s All about Eve meets Verhoeven’s Showgirls with heavy doses of Polanski’s Repulsion - and then some!

Director Darren Aronofsky etches the tale of Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballerina driven to achieving the highest level of artistry, brutally encouraged by crazed impresario Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), thwarted by her possessive, narcissistic mother (Barbara Hershey), terrified at the prospect of failure exemplified by an ageing prima ballerina (Winona Ryder) and most of all, facing the threat of extinction by Lilly (Mila Kunis), an earthy rival with less technique, but greater raw passion - something Nina desperately needs to wrench from the depths of her soul to move beyond mere technical virtuosity. O, glorious melodrama! Replete with catty invective hurled with meat-cleaver sharpness, corporeal cat fights, blistering mother-daughter snipe-fests, swelteringly moist masturbation, scorching lesbo action, furious anonymous sex in nightclub washrooms and delectable over-the-top blood-letting, Black Swan is one motherfucker of an ice cream sundae with not one, not two, not three, but a jar-full of maraschino cherries in a pool of glistening globs of red syrup on top.

The performances are expertly pitched to melodrama. Miss Portman commands with such bravado that it will be the performance to beat in the coming awards season. Mila Kunis is raw, gorgeous and sexy as all get out. Winona Ryder proves to be a worthy successor to the suffering bitch goddess Susan Hayward. Barbara Hershey drags us into the demonic bilge barrel of great movie harridans. While last, but certainly not least, Vincent Cassel is a perfect impresario: part genius, cocksman and Mephistopheles.

This is a rewrite of a review that first appeared during the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival at Daily Film Dose. It was first published on the Electric Sheep website as part of our coverage of the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

Some have already referred to Black Swan as ‘The Red Shoes on acid’. They couldn’t be more wrong. Powell/Pressburger’s The Red Shoes is already on acid. From my vantage point, Aronofsky’s Black Swan is pure crack cocaine - a free-base dose to rival that which lit Richard Pryor up like a flaming Weihnachtsbaum.

Greg Klymkiw

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LSFF: The Cursed Cassette

I’ve just returned from the London Short Film Festival’s Music and Video shorts at the Roxy Bar and Screen, a smorgasbord of playful and elaborate musical and visual delights. Look out for the write-up next month but in the meantime you can check out one of the films in the programme below, Paul Cheshire’s very brief but brilliantly strange The Cursed Cassette. There is still one day of LSFF left, with some very exciting stuff going on, such as the Leftfield and Luscious programme, which we previewed here, and the Salon des Refusés and Rich Pickings events. For more information, check out the LSFF website.

Virginie Sélavy

Watch a scene from The Cursed Cassette:

The Ward

The Ward

Format: Cinema

Release date: 21 January 2011

Venues: nationwide

Distributor: Warner Bros

Director: John Carpenter

Writers: Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen

Cast: Lindsy Fonseca, Amber Heard, Danielle Panabaker, Jared Harris

USA 2010

88 mins

A cinematic math equation to demonstrate genre success:

Veteran genre-meister John Carpenter (The Thing, Halloween) directs a horror film set in the 1960s where none of the babes have hairstyles remotely resembling 60s dos. + One mouth-wateringly hot Amber Heard (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane), incarcerated in a creepy old asylum after committing arson in her sexy under garments. + As luck would have it, the ward Amber gets thrown into is replete with babes. + One by one, the babes are butchered. + Amber keeps seeing a weird chick wandering the halls, but is told it’s just her imagination and when she insists and persists, Amber gets manhandled by burly male nurses who zap her with electro-shock therapy and truss her lithe body into a straightjacket. + In one of the more disgusting moments in horror movie history, one of the babes in the ward is electro-shocked until… well, I won’t ruin it for you, but trust me - it’s pretty fucking gross! + The ghost is one super-gnarly monster: mucho-drippings of the viscous kind. + A creepy psychiatrist appears to be engaging in (what else?) unorthodox experiments upon the babes in the ward. + An ultra-butch ward nurse manages to give Louise Fletcher a run for her money in the Nurse Ratched Mental Health Caregiver Sweepstakes. + Tons of cheap scares that make you jump out of your seat and, if you have difficulties with incontinence, you are advised to bring along an extra pair of Depends. + A thoroughly kick-ass climax leads up to the delivery of a Carrie-like shocker ending = One free blowjob for the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes for selecting the film and especially for getting me into the sold-out midnight screening after I fucked up getting my ticket from the right place at the right time. Said blowjob shall occur once someone carves glory holes into the public washroom stalls of the new Bell Lightbox complex where the festival and its year-round Cinematheque are now housed. One free blowjob and rim job shall be bestowed upon John Carpenter for making this film. Said delights for Mr Carpenter shall occur once he finishes (I kid you not!) jury duty in El Lay, which, alas, kept him from appearing in Toronto to do a Q&A session.

This is a rewrite of a review that first appeared during the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival at Daily Film Dose. It was first published on the Electric Sheep website as part of our coverage of the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

And that, genre freaks, is your Mathematical equation for the day. It all adds up. Real good.

Greg Klymkiw

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A Bay of Blood

A Bay of Blood

Format: DVD + Blu-ray

Release date: 20 December 2010

Distributor: Arrow Video

Director: Mario Bava

Writers: Franco Barberi, Mario Bava, Filippo Ottoni, Dardano Sacchetti, Giuseppe Zaccariello

Original title: Reazione a catena

Cast: Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Camaso, Anna Maria Rosati

Italy 1971

84 mins

‘Diabolical. Fiendish. Savage.’ So promises the radio spot for Mario Bava’s seminal slasher. The perverse endorsement goes on to warn, ‘You may not walk away from this one’. Although you are in fact very likely to survive the film’s duration, A Bay of Blood prides itself on being an onslaught of escalating mayhem. It reveals murderer after murderer - and, as an experience, is something of a hysterical, even baffling ordeal.

Conceived as a commentary on the 1968 worldwide student protests - which pitched younger generation against older - it opens thrillingly as the elderly Countess Federica (Isa Miranda) manoeuvres her wheelchair around her plush property, accompanied by rising orchestral strains. Suddenly, an unseen assassin appears, tipping Federica from her chair and stringing her up with mechanical malice. The murderer is revealed as her husband Count Filippo Donati (Giovanni Nuvoletti). However, in a further delicious twist, consistent with the film’s cut-throat, irreverent approach, Filippo himself is instantly dispatched by a mystery assailant, stabbed repeatedly before falling under the swinging, lifeless hands of his own victim.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing else in the ensuing film that quite matches this operatic, visually striking opener, with the rest of the picture a more conspicuously low-budget affair. However, A Bay of Blood compensates for its ragged appearance with bravura camerawork and a number of witty death sequences: a couple are killed with a spear as they make love, a skinny-dipper is molested by a corpse, and a drowned man is dramatically revealed with an octopus slithering across his face. Special mention here must go to Carlo Rambaldi for his gruesome and ingenious effects work.

A Bay of Blood is renowned for its multiple titles, high body count and considerable, if inauspicious, legacy. Known variously as Carnage, Blood Bath and - in a bizarre rebranding - Last House on the Left - Part II, it is also still remembered by the most evocative of these alternative monikers, Twitch of the Death Nerve. A Bay of Blood might not be its most imaginative title but it is at least the most apposite, as its convoluted narrative concerns a violent wrangle over the inheritance of a bay, with various parties, including Renata (Claudine Auger) and her stepbrother Simon (Claudio Volonté) fighting over ownership. It features a whopping 13 murders in total - an impressive and appropriately unlucky number.

Its most obvious imitator is the Friday the 13th series but, interestingly, A Bay of Blood‘s hapless young quartet survive only 10 minutes of reckless revelry before they are picked off by the killer. What Bava barely even regards as a sub-plot would form the basis for an entire franchise and its own numerous imitators.

A Bay of Blood lacks the consistent compositional brilliance of Bava’s best work (for example Mask of Satan) and time has not been tremendously kind; however, it has its charm. As the victims pile high and killers greedily compete, it gleefully erodes your faith in humanity, before smashing it with a sledgehammer in a cruel yet wonderfully daring punchline.

Emma Simmonds

January DVDs: F


Premiered at FrightFest in August, F. is a very enjoyable and well-made film clearly modelled on John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 but takes place not in a near-empty police station, but after hours in the empty corridors and classrooms of a contemporary British college. After being attacked in his classroom and finding no support among his colleagues, English teacher Robert Anderson (David Schofield) turns to alcohol and eventual burn-out. One of his pupils is his daughter, with whom he has lost connection, and as he tries to repair this relationship while facing his other demons, he finds himself confronted by a relentless attack on the school by a group of faceless thugs and bloodthirsty killers in the guise of those folk devils du jour, the hoodies.

The cast universally contribute to the film’s success but David Schofield is especially effective and notable for his role as Anderson. While steeped in conventions and plotlines with which we are all too familiar, F. is nevertheless an interesting, clever and very watchable low-budget film, which has both relevance and panache. Definitely director Johannes Roberts’s best work to date.

James Evans

F. is released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on January 10 by Optimum Releasing.

Deep Red

Deep Red

Format: DVD + Blu-ray

Release date: 3 January 2011

Distributor: Arrow Video

Director: Dario Argento

Writers: Dario Argento and Bernardino Zapponi

Original title: Profondo rosso

Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi and Gabriele Lavia

Italy 1975

126 mins (director’s cut)

‘It should be more trashy,’ says the protagonist at the beginning of Dario Argento’s seminal giallo, nailing the film’s gaudy colours firmly to the mast. A post Blow Up David Hemmings plays Marc Daly, the innocent, metro-sexual jazz pianist who witnesses a murder and so finds himself in a cat and mouse game with the deadly assassin. His attempts to unravel the mystery, aided by reporter Gianna Brezzi (an excellent Nicolodi), are hampered as each potential witness is hunted and slain and he himself becomes a target for the psycho-killer. The staple elements of the giallo genre are here: the lurid and elaborate murders; the killer’s black leather gloves; the POV camera that stalks the victims; and the cod psychology -’the killer could appear quite normal’ - further complicated by a dash of the paranormal (the first victim is a psychic who sees into the mind of the killer). The film’s trashiness, however, is willed. Marc will argue with Carlo, a friend and comrade in jazz, who accuses him of playing ‘bourgeois’ jazz, of basically slumming it in contrast to Carlo’s bitter, self-destructive and ‘proletarian’ jazz. The elaborateness of the killings are a case in point, as each one is meticulously set up, scored (both by the killer with a creepy children’s song and by the prog-rock group Goblin) and delivered while, at the same time, retaining a primal savagery and bloodiness. To emphasise the film’s stylistic schizophrenia, one character is killed by a combination of a dustbin lorry and a sports car.

This duality is also evident in the film’s portrait of a deeply confused Italy: a country torn between its heritage past, its statuary and haunted villas, and a hankering after a tacky modernism, of which Marc himself, with his imported jazz, his sterile apartment and his local Edward Hopper-inspired bar, is a representative. It is a country where oafish policemen discuss strike action, munch on sandwiches at the crime scene, ogle prostitutes at the police station and appear blandly uninterested in the crimes taking place. In Argento’s Italy, the children are menacing, casually torturing animals, and the psychiatrist, Prof. Giordani, is as crazy as the case he seeks to analyse.

This double disc DVD release offers a belated opportunity to see the original full-length film. This is not so much a director’s cut as a restoration of the 1975 Italian theatrical release. There is a bit more gore: the eponymous red has that wonderful sloshing paint quality that can only be found in 70s cinema. We also get more comedy as Argento tries for a Thin Man dynamic between Hemmings and Nicolodi. Any conventional sense of romance is eschewed, however, as Hemmings’s neurotic vulnerability renders him incapable of taking on the masterful Nicolodi, who, as a strong and independently-minded career girl, also serves Argento as a foil to possible charges of misogyny.

Take a look at our Dario Argento’s theme page.

John Bleasdale



Format: Cinema

Release date: 7 January 2011

Venues: ICA (London)

Distributor: Anchor Bay

Directors: Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani

Writers: Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani

Cast: Cassandra Forêt, Charlotte Eugène-Guibeaud, Marie Bos

France/Belgium 2009

90 mins

In giallo (the Italian erotic thriller genre so loved of the 70s), there are two levels of reality: the everyday reality of bumbling detectives or over-curious, gorgeous girls, and a subjective reality, where we might learn about a bitter memory that haunts a serial killer, or a character’s experience of ecstasy, be that of terror or pleasure. In these moments, the director can let loose and use sound and image to crack open linear logic so that rooms can be flooded by unexplained, lurid coloured light and darkened club scenes can be conjured up through just a glint of gold lamé, a sequined nipple and a Morricone beat that nudges us closer and closer towards our libidinal impulses. The co-directing team of Amer, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, seem to have decided, purely for indulgence, to stay with these introspective realities and extend them for the duration of the feature. Sounds great, what’s not to like about a psychedelic spread of giallo tropes and motifs? But you can have too much of a good thing. I would say that giallo relies on contrast. I gladly sit through scenes of wooden acting and shaky, unconvincing mysteries for the treat that is an Argento death: stunningly choreographed and gloriously gratuitous. In Amer there is none of this contrast, and at times it feels like an exercise purely in style.

Amer is a loose, three-part narrative about Ana (played, respectively, by actresses Cassandra Forêt, Charlotte Eugène-Guibeaud and Marie Bos), who was physically and emotionally abused as a child. The film concludes when she returns to the site of her primary trauma, her childhood home, to exact her revenge. With very little dialogue, time is contracted and expanded. The world through Ana’s eyes is conveyed to us in excessive detail that creates an inescapable claustrophobia. Clearly, the filmmakers are very comfortable with the short film format and make the leap into the feature form by using a triptych structure. Essentially though, this is three shorts, whose themes and methods, while seductive, are repetitive - a feature for the sake of it. At times the joy in surface, as Ana fingers a patterned wallpaper, for example, or becomes obsessed with the feel of her bathwater, seems just that - surface. Generally, Amer‘s film language is akin to a glossy car advert in the style of giallo. At other times, the filmic experimentation is uncompromising, any meaning dissolves and only enigmatic imprints are left. As I see it, the directors need to release themselves from the possessive hold of their giallo parent, and like adolescent rebels, really roll with the unique product of their poetic, independent reconfiguring.

Nicola Woodham

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