If the surface-heavy giallo workout Amer limits itself to the trappings of the popular Italian crime thriller genre that was all the rage in the ’60s and ’70s, well, it’s appropriate because the genre itself only appeals to a select group of viewers.
And if you’re among that subset for whom nothing thrills quite so fully as, say, the strains of a musical score by composer Bruno Nicolai, then Amer is going to go down like candy. Jagged shards of rock candy, shoved in your face in extreme close-up.
Belgian directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani work within the giallo tradition — named such because of the tendency for violent Italian pulp mystery novels to be published with yellow covers — but mostly eschew the genre’s loving plot twists.
Instead, the movie focuses on the emphatic sensual film styles of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, distilling the maddening sound designs, architectural camera angles and tremulous carnal physicality that mark the likes of Deep Red, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Don’t Torture a Duckling.
The result is something akin to an avant-garde experiment, albeit one as unnerving and, occasionally, terrifying as the movies Amer pays tribute to.
Basically, the movie concentrates on three key stages of its doomed heroine’s life, all of which are coded into strikingly unique visual templates. The first stage shows Ana as an child, apparently reacting to the death (impending death?) of her grandfather. She steals the pocket watch from his hands and is confronted by the spectacle of her mother making love in the next room.
The intertwining motifs of sex and death repeat themselves in the following two segments showing Ana as a flowering, pouty-lipped adolescent and, ultimately, as a young woman who returns to the villa she grew up in, only to once again come face to face with primal fear.
Cattet and Forzani don’t dwell on the mechanics of the plot. It only exists to execute a sort of theme and variation on violence and sensuality, all conveyed with the bold reds, blues and greens that marked, among others, Argento’s seminal Suspiria.
Amer plays both tonight as well as next Tuesday night as part of the Trylon Microcinema’s ongoing “Premiere Tuesdays” series. Pack a straight razor in your purse and prepare for a cold sweat.