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Amer

Graham Eley

When Italian giallo horror was enjoying its heyday during the mid seventies, Screen famously published Laura Mulvey’s seminal article Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.  Although Mulvey had Hitchcock, Sternberg and the US studios firmly in her sights, the text would have been equally valuable for unlocking the many ideological mechanisms at work in the giallo genre.  All the more intriguing then that Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s impressive feature debut returns to the retro terrain of the giallo with a visual deconstruction of the mechanisms that Mulvey exposed.

 

Three different actresses play the film’s central protagonist, Ana, at three formative stages of her sexual maturity.  We witness Ana as a young girl drawn to her grandfather’s decaying corpse laid out in a room off bounds.  She is petrified of the sinister family maid Graziella, who, veiled and dressed in black, peers through the keyhole of Ana’s bedroom as she undresses at night.  Extreme close ups of the voyeuristic camera magnify the voyeuristic terrorising eye on the screen and Ana, herself, turns voyeur as she watches intensely after catching her parents having sex.  The soundtrack intensifies all noises – doors, water, footsteps – as we move into a subjective territory shifting between quasi-reality and fantasy/dreams.  Images overladen with coded symbolism – birds’ wings hinting at witchcraft and Graziella pouncing like a vampire bat full of sadistic intent – override the plot.  All is fear and curiosity here, the fear and curiosity of a new awakening visualised as a macabre psychodrama.

 

The darkness and shadows of the family mansion abruptly end as we move to the second act/vignette and a beautiful seascape bathed in sunlight.  Ana, now a young women, and her mother are walking to the local village and the scopophilic camera returns with an outrageous and prolonged objectification of the female form.  This is the ultimate fetish that Mulvey describes, the direct “rapport with the audience” without the powerful guiding look of a male protagonist, the fetish of Sternberg’s objectification of Marlene Dietrich.  It coincides with a crucial moment; the moment that Father Time does his worst and daughter takes over from mother as the attraction for the wandering male eye.  Jealousy kicks in and culminates with a violent slap across the face when Ana engages with some young hip bikers.

 

Ana returns to the mansion for the final segment as an adult.  False signifiers side step the audience and challenge the emphatic male gaze.  A taxi driver with leather gloves and a menacing glare appears every bit the giallo psychopath but, in a reversal of our expectations, he becomes the bloody victim of a wild Ana once again haunted by her childhood delusions.  She stands over his body wearing the symbolic leather gloves as a manifestation of the mega dangerous super(wo)man, the ultimate Mulvey threat of castration, which in the male order, must be exterminated.  We are now in Hitchcock territory, the territory of Norman Bates and a mysterious malevolent figure arrives to take care of things.

 

Polished use of colour filters, carefully composed extreme close-ups, a thumping soundtrack of original giallo material and a few Bunuellian insects for good measure create an aestheticised violence that wilfully treads the line between justifiable art house embellishment and gratuitous exploitation.  In short, it is a daring but knowing piece of off-beat/surreal horror playing with genre and its conventions and making a fair few sly observations along the way.generic cialis cheapest pricewhere to buy cialis online safelycialis order online canadaprice of viagracheap super viagra buy online generic viagra canadaorder super viagra online viagra buy onlinepurchase super viagra online usaviagra generic name

 

Amer has enjoyed an extended run at the ICA and deserves wider distribution.

 

  • Year: 2009
  • Country: France
  • Filmmaker: Bruno Forzani and  Helene Cattet
  • Screenwriter: Bruno Forzani and  Helene Cattet
  • Producer: François Cognard and Eve Commenge
  • Cinematographer: Manuel Dacosse
  • Editor: Bernard Beets
  • Cast: Marie Bos, Cassandra Foret, Charlotte Eugene-Guibbard & Bianca Maria D'Amato
  • Duration: 90 mins
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