31 Days of Halloween Hysteria: “Amer”

What did I just watch?

After yesterday’s display of brutalist horror action, today’s pick was a completely different black-gloved, split-screened, bee-stung lipped beast entirely.

2009’s Giallo-homaging head trip, “Amer”, is the first feature film from French film-makers Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani.  It’s an impossibly hip, wonderfully shot tone poem which vividly relates key episodes in the life of Ana, played variously by Cassandra Forêt, Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud and Marie Bos.

Being that this is an achingly stylish, cine-literate and very French film, those key episodes relate almost entirely to sex, death or some commingling of the two.

The first tale sees Ana in early childhood, enduring a distant father, a mother who actively despises her and the proverbial weird grandma in the room next door, whose grabby hands and black lace shroud are not likely to endear her to the young tyke.  Into this strange picture we should also consider the slowly decaying grandfather in the basement, some business with an antique pocketwatch, bedroom lighting from the firm of Argento and Fulci and Ana walking in on her parents as they reach sweaty mutual climax.

Yes, quite.

Part two sees Ana in puberty and having a sensual awakening as her still hostile mother gets her hair done in town.  Biker gangs are involved.  There’s lots of breathy sound effects, floaty summer dresses, wistful French pop and an air of elegant doom and punishment despite the picture-perfect surroundings.

Our final episode sees Ana in adulthood, back in her childhood home, indulging in more self-pleasure than a 13-year-old boy and now subject to the attentions of an initially unseen stalker with black gloves and a sharp blade.  Sex and death, man – it’s the cornerstone of cinema as we know it.

If “Amer” sounds like your particular cup of  Javanese espresso, that’s probably as much of a recommendation as you’re going to need.  This is cinema as art and I don’t know if we need to judge this film in the same way as we would a prosaic slasher or identikit found-footage thriller.   It has exceptionally pretty images, wonderful sound design, skillful use of editing, split-screen, excellent set-design and not a hint of a story beyond what you might be able to project onto it.

You could regard “Amer” as lazy film-making or refreshingly oblique, depending on what you go to the cinema for.  If you’ve ever enjoyed a Dario Argento movie from his 1970s period, you’ll probably find something to enjoy in “Amer”, although it lacks the narrative propulsion of one of his lurid, grisly horror masterworks.  If your particular scary movie jam is jump scares and inventive murdery set-pieces, you might want to give this a wide berth.