TIFF Review: 'The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears'

A hazy, stream-of-consciousness barrage of images and sounds that dredge up difficult to elucidate (and often uncomfortable) emotions is an ingredient many filmmakers use to spice up their stew. Most use it sparingly, if they dare at all. But since the dawn of cinema, surrealists have seized this artform to try and capture the ineffable quality of dreams.

"The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears" is a fantasia of death, sex, panic, confusion, primary colors, aggressive music, 60s modern interior design, nipples, blood and straight razors. Lengthy passages are unrelated to any discernible narrative, and seem to exist in that interzone your mind travels through just before it goes to sleep. You may be familiar - it's often the time when your leg twitches, heart skips a beat and you slam open your eyes again.

Belgian directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani ("Amer") open their new picture with classic Dario Argento giallo hallmarks. To electronic rock music we see a man running around his "old world" elegant apartment building looking for his missing wife. He buzzes doorbells and finally meets "the old woman upstairs" (represented by a voice and some legs in stockings.) As he explains that his wife has gone, she starts to tell him what she feels is a relevant story.

What commences is a fifteen minute (or so) dialogue-light short film. While the art direction sticks with the giallo template (giant frescoes, stained glass and, yes, peacocks) its rhythm is more reminiscent of, say, the early non-animation work of Jan Svankmajer. Just as you lose yourself in this story (and kinda-sorta forget all about the man looking for his wife) we come back to the framing device, the man upset about "wasting his time."

This formula is repeated with other people - even with the detective who comes over to discuss the case. It starts to feel like a musical, with each narrative break as a big showcase number.

I can't lie and say that these deviations have a lot of narrative drive - some I just had no clue what the hell was going on - but they all look (and sound) SO FRIGGIN COOL. Put it this way, every budding cineaste owes it to himself to have a taste their vice of choice and bathe in this film.

There are split-screens, there are negative exposures, there are extreme close-ups, there's over-saturated color and there's black and white. There's a whole sequence made up entirely of still shots against elaborate sound design. There's also a scene edited to a "soundalike" of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" (perhaps a wink at how frequently the original is used?)

Film nerds will lose count of the explicit references - from Carlotta Valdez' hair to quick flashes meant to look like Stan Brakhage's work. But is it a movie? Mileage of exquisitely framed pierced skulls representing vaginas may vary! I can say, though, that Cattet and Forzani aren't fakers.

I can't fathom how this movie was logistically prepped. The script may have been fifteen pages, but if each image was pre-visualized that process may have taken years.

I'm thrilled there are people out there making movies like this, but I wouldn't argue with the notion that a little goes a long way. I'd love to see what these directors might do with a slightly more conventional screenplay.

SCORE: 7.5 / 10