Amer (2009)

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*. A movie I thought I’d like, and wanted to like, a lot more.
*. It sets out to be a homage to giallo films, and since I do love me some Bava and Argento I was totally on board.
*. The movie has three parts, representing stages in the life of Ana from childhood, through adolescence, to an adult woman. And the first part delivers on the giallo promise. There are unnerving, uncomfortable close-ups. There’s a jangling, jarring score. There’s a psychadelic use of light and colour. There’s heavy breathing on the soundtrack, and what may be a witch or at the very least a killer, wearing dark gloves.
*. I wasn’t sure what any of it meant, but it looked and sounded great. Presumably the French directing team of Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani were setting something up that was going to be further developed in the next two parts.
*. Sadly, no. The second part has Ana walking around in a short dress with her mother. She is aware of men looking at her (as well they might, as the camera can’t help but imitate, or parody, the male gaze). Her mother is aware as well, and cuts her erotic reveries short.
*. This second section is just a tease, an erotic red herring where nothing happens and the climax is a comic letdown. To be fair, gialli have such passages, but they don’t go on this long and they aren’t as laboured.
*. It’s also in the second section that I began to understand that Ana was a neurotic who was imagining various threats. Again, this is not unknown in a giallo, but it does deflate the rest of the movie.
*. The third and final part just underlines this. Adult Ana is in line for a sexual breakdown. As she returns to ther family home, now a ruin (at least on the inside) we return to various motifs from the first section but there is nothing that has anything to do with the plot points that were then introduced. It is revealed that Ana is the psycho, and an enigmatic ending suggests she has done away with herself.
*. This is all very disappointing. What starts off so well turns into a repetitive and empty exercise in style. That Cattet and Forzani spent so long writing and developing such a project is astonishing. This is just three very short films stretched out and then tacked together, with little in the way of an overarching narrative but only a lot of visual flourishes and silent ambiguity. I wasn’t even sure what the title was referring to. It’s nice to look at, and suggestive of various things, but never rises much above the level of student work.

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