Dario Argento, Minus the Humor, in Amer


Cooked up by Belgian directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani in homage to Italian giallo horror films of the 1960s and ’70s, this tripartite melodramedy explores how a young woman’s twisted childhood affects her evolving carnality—which, if you know your Dario Argento, doesn’t exactly follow the high school sex-ed manual. A marriage of grossness and opulent beauty, this all but wordless movie takes us through the oppressive childhood of Ana, played at different stages by three actresses with bee-stung lips and haughty stares, in a baroque seaside chateau. From there, it moves through her adolescence—where a day at the beach with Mom, and a posse of leathered bikers, turns out to be no picnic—and on to her return to the chateau for some hackle-raising recovered memory involving granite-jawed men and very sharp knives. Amer, which means bitterness, plays down giallo icon Argento’s vivacious black comedy in favor of an arty creepiness that literally gives equal opportunity to the male and female gaze in an orgy of dueling eyeballs. The pleasures of this gorgeous, clever, and visceral film are almost exclusively aesthetic. Those unmoved or alienated by the porn of pain may be left flopping as nervelessly as one of the movie’s severed limbs.

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