Taking a Ride on the Giallo Submarine: Amer

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by John S

(A SIFF Midnight Adrenaline Review)

When the call came out from Scarecrow for more “Best-of-SIFF” reviews, I was more than happy to comply. However, I was also determined to review a film that was a bit more on the arty side than Battle Royale, my last review. Unfortunately, as I stood in front of the “Best-of-SIFF” section at the store, trying to pick a “respectable” flick, I suddenly lost consciousness.

When I woke up, I was standing in front of the “Midnight Adrenaline” section of the store. This section features SIFF films that are, shall we say, not going to be on a double bill with Europa Europa, Racing Extinction, or My Life As A Dog anytime soon. I’m talking about titles like John Dies In The End, Haute Tension, The Nightmare, Dead Snow, Zombeavers, and many other “genre” pieces.

Since there’s no point in fighting what comes naturally (clearly my body steered me to where I should have gone in the first place) I went ahead and made a selection from among the, um, colorful “Midnight Adrenaline” titles. I selected Amer, the 2009 French-Belgian homage to the wonderfully wacky thriller sub-genre popularized by Italians in the 60s and 70s: Giallo. Hey, look: Amer may not be Racing Extinction, but it’s not exactly Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives, either. And if you doubt me about that latter title, I invite you to stroll your happy keester on down to Scarecrow and confirm for yourself.

Gialli are colorful horror/mystery thrillers from (primarily) Italy that are usually short on plot, but brimming over the top with flair and style. Amer appropriately reflects that, considering I’ve seen this movie four times now and am repeatedly bowled over by the visuals-but still have no concrete idea what the holy hell it’s about. But, oh, that style! Directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani could probably make a film about me changing my cat’s litter box and make it gorgeous to behold.

Near as I can tell (and I’m pulling stuff out of my ass to a frightening degree here), Amer purports to outline three major events in the life of Ana (played in childhood, adolesence, and adulthood, respectively, by Cassandra Foret, Charlotte Guibeaud, and Marie Bos). The first event occurs when Ana is a little girl living in her parents’ French Riviera villa that looks like a cross between the haunted house in Deep Red and Castle Dracula. Looks like Ana’s parents (Bianca Maria D’Amato & Jean-Michel Volk) are upset over some creepy elderly relative named Graziella (Delphine Brual) who creeps around wearing black veils, peeping through keyholes, and crushing birds in her gloved hands. Can’t imagine why momsy and popsy would be upset by that.

Anyhow, these weird events from Ana’s childhood somehow spill over into her teen years and even further on when she is a grown woman who returns home to her now run-down childhood villa to…well, I’m not really sure what she wants to do there. However, considering the place is now filled with broken glass, dust, and skulking figures in black gloves brandishing sharp straight razors, my two cents would be for her to get the hell back to Paris, ASAP. How will all this end?

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There’s no point in further analyzing Amer. It works best when you just sit back and let the striking images wash over you. And, boy, is this flick ever filled with them. Cattet and Forzani barely use any dialogue in telling their tale, and simply let the visuals spin the story. Imagine a Terrence Malick movie, if Terry was possessed by a particularly horny demon. Or a Hitchcock flick, if Hitch decided to loosen up and get bombed on grappa-spumanti-limoncello cocktails. Or a Dario Argento movie, if Dario decided to toss the script out and forbade his actors from speaking (which, let’s face it, is what he probably should have done for his last two movies).

Gialli are very divisive. Some have said they are an acquired taste. However, I dispute that and maintain they’re like operas: you either love them or loathe them from the start-and that stance won’t change much. Those who know and love Gialli understand their dazzling style ultimately becomes their unique substance. These people will love Amer. Everyone else will wonder what the eff they are watching and, honestly, are better off checking out Zombeavers and Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives instead. At least then they know what they’re in for.

That’s all.

Amer: 7 out of 10 (Solid flick, but not for everyone)

John S. is a Scarecrow volunteer who loves James Bond, Jason Bourne, Italian Gialli, Dario Argento, Hitchcock, Ridley Scott, Peanut M&Ms with popcorn, Julia Roberts in PRETTY WOMAN, Theo James in anything, HALLOWEEN (movie and holiday), Scarecrow Video, Russell Crowe as a villain, strawberry soda, and Karaoke – not necessarily in that order. He also thinks he was a Bond Girl in another life, maybe a cross between Dr. Christmas Jones and Dr. Holly Goodhead.

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