Written by Chris Price
07 Monday 07th February 2011

Amer (Italian for ‘bitter’) a sensory study of female awakening and anxiety, throughout a woman’s life. It’s 90 minutes of perfectly constructed, progressive visual movements, submerged in constant threat.  Certainly not for everybody, but the perfect remedy to the circle-jerking biscuit action of cinema’s awards season.

The giallo genre has recently got an unexpected shot in the arm from Darren Aronofsky, and his Oscar-bothering balletfest Black Swan. Featuring many hallmarks of the Giallo genre. Murder mysteries, named after the yellowed pages of cheap acidic paper the original stories were printed on. Stories of women pushed to insanity, mad parents, jerking camera shots, blood splatters soundtrack by amplified screams of terror – normally orchestrated by an crazed Italian ubermensch, treading a fine line between exploitation horror, soft-core porn and surreal 70s psychedelia (and regularly spilling out of these confines).

Almost dialogue free, Amer is a three stage visual narrative. Each ‘chapter’ is delivered in a combination of differing images, sound and technique. From the initial nightmarish fairy tale, to the awakening of sexuality within the teenager and the inevitable murder of the protagonist and the emotional link between killer and victim. A decade of practice and hard graft (both physically and financially) has gone into the film.

The first section is a child’s nightmare, a stripped down series of stark images of a circle of unknown threat closing in on the little girls room – conveying an ascending level of discomfort and elements of witchcraft, death, religion and totemic symbolism that Guillermo Del Toro’s only dreams about (including a sex scene that falls somewhere between an acid-esque hallucination of Donald Cammell’s Performance and psychedelic primary-coloured jizz flinging in Beyond The Green Door.

The second section being an initial short film is about mother/daughter competition and the desire for danger. Referring to softcore Japanese ‘pink’ films, it’s a riot of titillation and lingering super sexualized tracking shots of her dress straining in the wind – scored by a suitably kitsch Ennio Morricone number.

And to the final section; all creaking leather and sexual tension. And the unstoppable demise of the leading lady, at the hands of a razor wielding murderer with a penchant for eyeball trauma (at the end, in a break from traditional Giallo style).

Amer is part of a small crop of Neo-gialli, including films such as Lust for Vengeance, I Know Who Killed Me and the forthcoming A Flash of the Blade. Low budget homage to the seedy underbelly of cinema. In much the same way that Tarantino made his name mining a back catalogue of pop culture, Cattet and Forzani do the same for the giallo genre. Hell, they even use the music from their favourite films (look out for cuts from Bruno Nicolai, Adriano Celentano and Stelvio Cipriani).

The film was a decade in the making, and forms the perfect alliance of directorial interests. Bruno with his love of exploitation and horror, and Helene with a keen eye for still photography, and the more intangibly emotional elements of Giallo. (The DVD release also features their portfolio of short films, which I recommend are viewed beforehand to create some form of context for the feature film)

Amer is a true homage to the style. Featuring motifs that may appear hokey to some, they are all from a 30 year library of cultural and stylistic shifts. The sound and image on display is so rich, it’s hard not to be captivated by the investment the directors have put into every single element of the film, and even more impressive is the level of raw emotion conveyed with the lack of dialogue.

In fact, I have to admit defeat. Amer is so unique compared to any film that I’ve seen in recent times, all I can do is implore you to go and see it. A truly captivating, and unforgettable experience.

Amer is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.

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  • Guest: ilsuricato
    Fri 11 - Feb - 2011, 14:56
    Hi, just a little correction: AMER not is the italian translate of "bitter" (this is AMARO), but is the french translate. ciao ciao from Italy