Tuesday, June 7, 2011

AMER


Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, 2009
Starring: Cassandra Forêt, Bianca Maria D'Amato

Every once in awhile a film comes along that manages to completely escape my grasp. Amer is such a one. I went into it knowing only that it was an homage to the giallo films of Bava and Argento and that it received mixed reviews. Having now seen it (last night at the Danger After Dark fest), I can totally respect and appreciate what the filmmakers were trying to achieve, but I can also say that I just didn't like it. It's easy for me to lampoon a film that I think is uninspired, unintelligent, or boring, but I don't think any of those things are true for Amer. I simply didn't like it and spent most of the running time fidgeting in my seat.

Amer is a French-Belgian production that can't really be classified as a giallo, a thriller, or a concretely narrative film. It documents three episodes in a woman's life. First, as a young girl, she has a sinister night with her grandfather's corpse. Second, as a young, sexually developing teenager, she spends a tense afternoon in town with her mother. Finally, as an adult, she returns to her family home and has an encounter with a killer. The beauty of these sequences is that they represent the world of the mind come to life on screen. Cattet and Forzani are geniuses at capturing visceral sensory experiences. The result is stunning and beautiful and the directors make expert use of sound, color, and cinematography to achieve their goals. The central character's experiences are dizzying, disorienting, and not unlike how I imagined parts of The Stendhal Syndrome should have been. The shot on the subway in the last third is particularly breathtaking and claustrophobic.

Unfortunately, Amer gets onto the runway, but never leaves the landing strip. The repetitive nature of the shots, the lack of narrative depth, and the constantly building tension (with no delivery) make this a kind of masturbatory artistic experiment. I think any serious film fan, student, or filmmaker should see this once, but it's a bit much for the casual viewer. I found the film boring -- and this is coming from a person who loves Jeanne Dielman -- despite its many beautiful moments, expert use of suspense, and erotic tension. These scenes ultimately lead nowhere, only back to themselves like an endlessly repeating love.


I'm sure some people will love the film. As I said earlier, I really respect what the directors are trying to accomplish, it just fell short of my expectations. And in a film that runs about 90-minutes, it's a little appalling to spend almost half that time entranced with the lead actress's body. If you want to check it out, there's a DVD from Olive Films. It's worth watching once, especially if you have an idea of what you're in for.

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