I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see a film more irritating than the two-hour opus to over-loud visuals and bad remixes that is Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, but gosh darnit, directors Cattett and Forzani have done it with their violent mystery about a man in search of his wife through a cinematic bad trip. I’d hazard a guess that everyone in the theatre at The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears risked hypercapnia due to the sheer level of exasperated sighing from the audience (note: actual science may differ).
How many times would you like to see a person stabbed in a 100-minute movie? If you answered zero, you’re probably a normal person and if you answered anything in the 5-20 range, you’re probably a horror fan. If you answered, “Somewhere in the hundreds, but hopefully the same person over and over in varying monochromatic schemes, with highly fragmented editing, set to screeching, non-rhythmic music,” see this film immediately.
Not that it’s a bad movie. That’s what’s so irritating about Tears. It’s a collection of disparate moments of unique cinematic brilliance that’s haphazardly strung together by visual motifs of doppelgängers, phallic violence, childhood memories and everything else you’ll find in any half-baked movie that calls itself a psychosexual thriller.
But Tears isn’t half-baked; it’s over-baked. The wife-husband directing team supports the film’s grotesque nightmare logic with all the clinical attention of Shane Carruth’s recent Upstream Colour and there’s a sense of relentless exactness throughout every sequence. But, the film is about sex and violence and those things are messy. Rather than seeming masterful, the direction seems stifling. A man brings a used makeup pad to his nose and we cut to a leering closeup of a woman’s neck as the camera leans in past minimum focal distance and everything blurs to beige. It’s brilliant, but it’s done with such precision that we can’t enjoy it.
There’s lots of stabbing, though whether it’s worthwhile probably depends on whether you think the film makes sense. The film takes a certain pleasure in its violence, but it’s the same macro-view that it takes of its characters. When they speak, they are in closeup and rarely have even their entire faces on the screen; the directors tilt, anti-frame, and quick-cut their way out of anything that threatens to look like a normal movie scene. And so the murders are fractured, too, a lot of violence in closeup against one particular section or another of the human body.
Tears wears its central conceit of giallo homage on its sleeve throughout the running time, but the story is at once too controlled and too bereft of plot for the stylings of Bava, Argento, and the like to feel like more than an excuse to be visually outrageous. If giallo films were slashers informed by “higher” artistic sensibilities, this is “high” art in masquerade. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that the directors have also published academic papers on spatial positioning in giallo and the mythic in gendered horror violence, or some such thing.
If there’s a bitter tone to this review, it reflects the experience of viewing more than the aftermath. There’s no doubt that Tears’ individual sequences are often imaginative and arresting, or that mentally untangling its psychoanalytic conceits post-viewing is reasonably enjoyable (if that’s your thing). But if you’re looking for something fun to watch, look elsewhere. In fact, look as far away as possible.
By Chris Shalom