Now That's What I Call Giallo: Ursula Bedena as Edwige.
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The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears: Giallo shots

Husband and wife duo Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's have created a new giallo film with all the necessary beauty and depravity expected of the genre, but without the intelligence and terror of a classic.

The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears (18)
dirs: Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani

It can’t be an accident that whenever I order an ice cream in Italy, my brain offers the word giallo instead of gelato. The two are linked for me in a way that is more than phonetic. My reaction the first time I consumed a tiramisu cone, thick with slabs of cake protruding from the ice cream, was not dissimilar to how I felt after I first saw a horror movie by Dario Argento, whose work is the most widely seen of the ravishing and overblown giallo species. I was subtly nauseous but also purring with pleasure.

The British film-maker Peter Strickland reignited interest in the genre with his playful 2012 thriller Berberian Sound Studio. Strickland can be heard in The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears as one of the “special screams”, though I couldn’t say which – there are many to choose from, what with all the stabbings and slicings and blades plunging into the tops of heads and between thighs.

This is both a new giallo and a tribute to the genre. It succeeds in providing the necessary doses of beauty and depravity from its opening images of a knife grazing a woman’s nipple. Terror and intelligibility are in shorter supply.

Dan Kristensen (Klaus Tange) returns from a business trip to find his wife, Edwige (Ursula Bedena), missing from their apartment. He does what any of us would do: he puts Now That’s What I Call a Giallo Soundtrack on the turntable at eardrum-perforating volume and conducts door-to-door inquiries of his neighbours. A silver-haired woman tells him her husband also recently went missing. Cue a flashback to the night they were having sadomasochistic sex and she awoke from the sedative he had administered to find him drilling a hole in the ceiling – right into the head of the mural of a naked woman that was painted there. The next thing she knew, he was in the flat upstairs and calling down to her through the hole, asking for lit matches to be passed up to him in the dark. This she did, before a single drop of blood hit her face and she never saw him again. What I wouldn’t give to see that staged as a reconstruction on Crimewatch.

A woebegone detective turns up next. “I’m worried about my wife,” Dan tells him. “I worked for a man once who was worried for his wife,” the detective replies. Time for another long flashback, this one involving corsets being laced, thigh-length boots being unzipped and the use of three gaily coloured pendants as deadly weapons. “What has all that got to do with my wife?” Dan asks, not unreasonably, when it’s over. Some of us will have wondered the same thing.

Sensible viewers will relinquish early on in the film any hope of coherence. The frame is routinely carved up, with the screen divided into quarters or halves, so that the top of one person’s face is paired with the mouth of another. A lucid narrative was never going to be a priority for film-makers who can’t honour basic laws of composition. But the Belgian writing-directing team of Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (who happen to be married) invest so much in rhapsodic imagery and crunchy, delicious sound design that it’s possible to be swept along for a while by the film’s momentum and madness. They have a knack for a disquieting image. The black-and-white freeze-frame of a doll’s minuscule hand reaching towards a human throat many times its size is one I expect to be seeing again in my nightmares.

One danger for a film that is sensually stimulating but with no intellectual or suspenseful component is that audiences can’t get wrapped up in the on-screen mystery. There are answers, of sorts, to the questions of where Dan’s wife has gone and why there are human figures moving under the wallpaper. I knew I’d ceased caring, though, when Dan started wielding a sledgehammer in his flat and my only concern was whether that was a supporting wall he was about to knock down.

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

This article first appeared in the 09 April 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Anxiety nation

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood