Classic Shit: Amer (2009)

Amer (2009) Dir. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani

Amer
Maria Bos as Ana in a scene from Amer
(Credit: Courtesy of Olive Films)

 

Amer is a beautiful, meticulous and quite intriguing film that pays lip service to all the trappings of an Italian giallo while also aiming for something that rises beyond that particular genre. The film is directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. It was the duo’s first feature film, though they had been making short films together for the past decade.

This debut feature is a masterpiece of composition, and each shot is its own piece of art. You could put this movie in a frame and hang it in a gallery.

Amer concerns itself with Ana (Marie Bos), or more precisely, it is about the sexual progression of Ana’s life. We experience Ana’s story as a kind of triptych. We first meet her as a very young girl, then as a teenager and finally as a grown woman. All three of these personifications of Ana are rife with dread, the promise of possible violence and raw sexuality.

Since its premiere in 2010 at the South by Southwest Film Festival, Amer has been labeled rather erroneously as a horror film, and even though the film’s editing and cinematography speak the language of the Italian giallo films of the ’60s and ’70s, this first-time feature is anything but a retread of the well-worn exploitation genre. Likely, you have never seen a film quite like this. It is almost sans dialogue, relying instead on the actor’s inner monologue, which is brought to life by way of very precise performances and by the director’s sublime editing and intuitive compositional work.

Again, nearly every frame of Amer is a piece of art.

That this is a first-time feature is baffling, but certainly has me in anticipation for whatever the directing duo decides to set their sights on. Dare I say that with just one feature, Cattet and Forzani have earned themselves a lifelong fan? Amer exudes more style than any De Palma outing. Its use of color trumps even that most seminal of Dario Argento films, Suspiria.

Cattet and Forzani may, indeed, be the true heirs to Italian director Mario Bava.

All praise aside, there will be those who do not enjoy the film, and though everyone will have his or her own reasons, a large part may be attributed to the film’s narrative, which is almost the antithesis to what most people expect from something so closely identified with the exploitation genre. This isn’t some “by rote” thriller; this is an examination of desire and sexual awakening realized as a paranoid fantasy. Even the highly stylized violence that is associated with the giallo is hidden away until the film’s final moments.

Though, when the bloodletting happens it is, of course, the very picture of aestheticized violence.

[Portions of the article originally appeared at Campus Circle]

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*Classic Shit! started in 2009 as a semi-regular article for the website We Are Movie Geeks. It has been on hiatus for a long time, and I’ve decided to finally resurrect the column, reprinting older pieces as well as adding new ones, all of which will focus on film.

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