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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