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The NY TIMES called AMER "an exercise in giallo (eroticized horror), a
richly colorful mosaic of sinister sidelong glances" while the LA TIMES
enthused, "a nightmare vision of desire and fear -gorgeous, heady,
dazzling!" but these pointed paeans are only partly true. Except for
the odd snippet, there's no dialog or musical score in the three
vignettes depicting the life of a disturbed young woman (childhood,
adolescence, adulthood) and although the last sequence contains
elements of the giallo, the film is more of an homage to the indelible
images of "maestro of the macabre" Mario Bava.
AMER's first segment on a child's reaction to her grandfather's death re-imagines the opening tale in Bava's trilogy I TRE VOLTE DELLA PAURA (aka BLACK SABBATH) from prying a valuable object out of a dead man's hand and the nightmare that follows right down to the dripping water and eerie blue, green, and red light that bathed the terrifying tableaux. The second segment on the girl's dangerous sexual awakening combines Bava's OPERAZIONE PAURA (aka KILL BABY KILL) and it's white soccer ball with the nebulous evil-under-the-sun aura of Tennesse Williams' SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER. The third and final scene that sees the young woman revisiting the abandoned villa where she grew up actually does reference BLOOD & BLACK LACE-style gialli with its black gloves, straight razor, and stalking sequence that leads up to a graphic murder. Unfortunately, there's only one (barely set piece) slaying in AMER and this dreamy collage of jump cuts, split screens, and undeniably beautiful imagery is less than the sum of its parts which may prove disappointing to hard-core horror fans. Cineastes -and those who enjoy avant-garde narrative as well as color-drenched kaleidoscopic visuals- should, however, get their money's worth. Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani's offbeat endeavor also reeks of Roman Polanski's REPULSION and I found the "eroticized" exercise admirable but more dull than anything else.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Amer" shown recently at Cinema Village, is a film that deals in psycho
sexual matters in the stylized way European directors love to present.
It is a creepy movie that involves a lot of ideas that play, in a way,
like a stylized video, but without music, and lyrics. In a way, it
reminds us of some of those installations at MOMA, where videos like
this play to captive audiences, exciting some, but boring most of the
people that approach the space.
The film was conceived by Belgian directors Helen Cattet and Bruno Forzani. Evidently, it is their tribute of those 'giallo' Italian films, of which Dario Argento has made a career directing. There is story behind the images one sees on the screen. Much is left to the viewer's imagination since what happens in the film has no dialogue, but it is clearly the story of a young girl that is traumatized from her early years, first by the death of her grandfather, and then by witnessing a passionate sexual session by her own parents.
After a while, the film becomes somewhat tedious because it appears to be pretentious, trying to find audiences that find pleasure in watching this genre, but without Mr. Argento's humor. Cassandra Foret and Charlotte Eugene-Guibbaud play Ana, as a girl and then as the teenager she becomes. Marie Bos is seen as the adult Ana.
Manu Dacosse is the cinematographer who works with dark images to convey the creepiness of the atmosphere the directors were after. The editing by Bernard Beets arranges the different shots in an artistic way to please the viewer.
I am a fan of Argento and the influences of this film. To be honest though I found this film to be good for the first section, the rest was dull and weak. The lack of story could be accepted by the art house feel of the film but that's not always an excuse for poor films. If I hadn't been a fan of what are considered superior genre films then maybe yes I would have seen the vision and delivery. To finish, but not reveal this brief review, the last section is shot in daylight dark. There is really bad light filters used which add a cheapness and only add to the already confusing story line. I would suggest a better example of a similar style film would be the Jess Franco film Eugenie. Better still Betty Blue.
Watching "Amer" at some point preferably sooner than later was more
than just an option for me; it was practically a necessity. There
aren't too many genre movies being made in my beloved home country of
Belgium, so us fans have to encourage every single attempt. And "Amer"
is, in fact, an even more impressive accomplishment for Belgium because
this film is much more than just a genre movie on itself; it's a
downright elegant and upper-class homage to the Italian genre film of
the 1960's and 1970's! I met the writer/director's duo Hélène Cattet
and Bruno Forzani at a mini film-festival in Brussels were they
presented their film to fellow admirers of unusual cinema. They're a
young and admirably modest couple who are clearly obsessed with gialli
and the particular filming style of certain Italian directors like
Mario Bava, Dario Argento Massimo Dallamano and others. Over a period
of less than ten years the couple made a handful of short films, but
they clearly just served as "exercises" for their ultimate masterwork
The script pays tribute to the giallo movie without actually being a genuine giallo. The movie doesn't feature any sadistic murders (except for one notably grisly moment near the climax) or explicit sex sequences (although a lot of sensuality) and the plot doesn't necessarily revolve on the manhunt for a deranged knife-wielding maniac. Instead, "Amer" pays its respects towards the stylistic trademarks and design of the giallo. The film is a non-stop smörgåsbord of cinematographic elegance (imaginative camera angles, specifically focused close-ups, POV shots ), experimental photography (delusional color schemes, intentionally rough editing ) and recognizable giallo soundtrack classics (with Stelvio Cipriani's theme song of "What have they done to our Daughters" as a mesmerizing highlight). There are hardly any dialogs in "Amer", and yet all your senses particularly the hearing will nevertheless be tantalized.
"Amer" slowly unfolds in three almost equally hypnotizing chapters, centered around three important key-moments in the life of a beautiful girl named Ana. The first chapter is about childhood fears. Ana lives in a ramshackle old house with her continuously arguing parents (her mother is a furious Italian wench) and her recently deceased grandfather in his bedroom. The creaking doors, the echoes inside the exaggeratedly large mansion and the constant peeking of voyeuristic eyes through the keyholes leave a vast impression on the young and petrified girl. In the second chapter, Ana has grown into an incredibly beautiful adolescent. Not a whole lot happens during this part of the film, as Ana and her mother simply walk across the little rural village and receive a giant number of envious looks from the townspeople, but it's definitely my personal favorite chapter. Thanks to the music and lewd photography, this part of the film is the most perfect homage to the Italian 70's. The second chapter of "Amer" might as well have been cut straight out of films like "In the Folds of the Flesh" or Dallamano's "Venus in Furs". It's guaranteed one of the sexiest pieces of film you'll ever see. The third and final chapter has the now adult Ana returning to her parental mansion, only to be confronted again with her childhood fears and imaginary pursuers. This chapter particularly plays as an ode to suspense and psychedelic trips. The three chapters glued together form a nearly impeccable wholesome, but of course you need to have some affection and feeling towards the era of the giallo. Watch it, if you can!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a fan of giallo, surreal and 'arty' films, as a bilingual French speaker and lover of Truffaut, Bunel and Goddard as well as Bava, Argento and Fulci, this should have been my kind of film. But Amer is a 90 minute waste of celluloid. The saving grace is its beautiful locations. My immediate reaction to the opening scenes were that it was filmed in the same villa as 'Hatchet for the Honeymooon'. I've checked this and hatchet was filmed near Rome, whereas Amer was shot (well thrown lazily together whilst drinking absinthe) near Menton. But, good start if it is to be an homage to Giallo. To be fair the first of the 3 segments is an OK student giallo pastiche. It is eerie, confusing and slightly disturbing. This would be fine if it had any narrative link to the rest of the film. The 'middle' section is possibly amongst the worst waste of time I've ever spent in front of a screen.A dreary real-time walk into the village while mummy gets her hair done then chasing a football down a hill to be confronted by the lamest bunch of pseudo bikers (on 50cc mopeds) I've ever seen. Give me strength! The final segment is OK in a confused way and is littered with Argento references most notably from 'Profundo Rosso' and 'Tenebrae'. And then it ended. which was about the best bit.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fluctuating between abstract eroticism and surreal, paranoid mysticism,
this film certainly is weird. Surprisingly enough though, it becomes
less vague while pertaining the surreal style. As the film progresses,
it seems so that the entire bizarre nature of the film is the reality
of Ana, who's not just a weird little girl, but actually turns out to
be a disturbed mentally ill person, like a autistic paranoid
She is extremely sensory/perceptive and also sensual in a more erotic and carnal way, as is shown beautifully using closeups of lips, eyes, legs, etcetera. Not to forget the extreme intensity of light now and then, and to accentuate the sensory aspect also the use of primary colors, filing an entire shot. The visual style is very creative, and feels really authentic to me. It's minimal and focusing: everything serves to demonstrate the reality of Ana.
All the mystic amulet stuff in the beginning, which invites you to try to make sense of it all, turns out to be the little girl's condition using her imagination to make up this reality. There's no mysterious amulet, neither is her grandma trying to hurt her. It's all in her mind, she's very paranoid and frightened. Possibly the shocking discovery of her parents making love while she ran in for help contributed to her weird seductive attitude and carnal desires at adolescent age. She is clearly sick and feels abstract, sexual attraction to the soccer playing youngster, but also with the older motorcyclists.
Then she's slightly older, returning to her parental home. She takes a bath, and almost gets drowned by a pair of gloved hands that seem to be the same as those of her grandmother in the beginning. Later when she's trying to sleep, the taxi driver pays her a visit. His intentions are never exactly clear, but he's visiting her at night with a knife, so he's certainly up to no good. However, there seems to be a third person at work, once again the person with the gloved hands. It is in these scenes that I learned that it's actually Ana herself. This becomes even more obvious when she cuts up the taxi driver and takes of the gloves.
Ultimately this virtual person chases her again and seems to kill her, which means of course she's committed suicide. One question remains for me though: why does she open her eyes at the end of the film? Personally, I think it's a bad choice that wants to suggests it's unclear whether the final scene is an actual autopsy of her apparent suicide, or another of Ana's delusions. I might be wrong though. It's unclear and I think she should have had her eyes closed ;-).
"Amer" is a cinematically clever visualization of a dramatic concoction, but in the end it turns into a too long exposition of the possible consequences of sexual repression among the Belgian rural bourgeoisie. As seen through a little girl's eyes, the first part dedicated to the childhood of a woman called Ana, is a fascinating tale filled with horror images that illustrate the child's fears: in the way horror films touch our most private emotions and evoke our childhood interpretations of reality, these images correspond to that phase in the woman's growth. The second part is perhaps the most erotic of the three phases in Ana's life, starting with the transition to adolescence, filled with visions of soft skin, pubic hair and a most curious ant that comes out of her belly button. This section is treated as a sunny melodrama of the aging Italian mother's jealousy of her pretty daughter, as young Ana attracts all the males' attention, while mamma dyes her hair in the local beauty parlor, and frustrates the girl's awkward attempts to connect with boys. For the third section, it is interesting that -in these days of shaven, tattooed males- the directors decided to illustrate the transition to adulthood with downy hairs, fuzzy male arms, as in the sequence in the train, where adult Ana is surrounded by male passengers. But this third part is inevitably the less attractive, for this time all the hallucinations are but the tired expression of Ana's repression. She has apparently let life and fulfillment pass her by, so her return to the sumptuous and beautiful villa by the sea, where she grew up, inexorably leads to tragedy. An unusual drama, intelligently told, but I would have been grateful for a shorter running time, especially in this third sad section.
Cinema can be a powerful thing to behold. Not only as a means in which to express whatever saga it may desire, but also to provoke feeling and thought in its viewer. Much has been made, certainly in academic terms, of what the audience perceives through cinema, and this unique and astounding Belgian gem conveys this like no other piece of film in a long time. The triptych story, following the life of Ana through her childhood, her coming-of age adolescence, and her eventual becoming as a 'woman, is clearly focused on using cinema as a medium in its purest form. Dialogue is sparse, images are vivid, the editing poignant, not a shot goes by without meaning. As a reference point, we can cite the giallo movement as an immediate connection, yet AMER is so much more than a mere homage. Recalling the great works of Franju, Bava, and Robert Weines' 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari', to name but a few, modern menace and eroticism is also adopted here to startling effect. A lot has been expressed in terms of a lack of narrative as a main cause for concern. For this viewer it is the complete opposite, in that we are made to feel the fear, the sexuality, the loss, of our vulnerable protagonist, not too dissimilar to Jires' Valerie. A film to experience, interact with, rather than simply allow. Enter and take pleasure in the real power of this medium. Unfortunately all too rare in modern cinema.
once in a while come a film, that is extraordinary. Beyond all you've seen before. "Amer" is such a film. First of all: This is no "horror" film at all. It is something beyond any known genre. A masterpiece, that will make no sense at all, if you expect a storyline or explanations. If you want to see it like that, you may be disappointed. But if you are able to watch it like a dream, a recording of the dream state of an unknown woman, you will experience an amazing trip. To me this film is as close to a dream as a film can come. The visual ideas and the camera-work is simply awesome. A proof that you don't have to spend big budgets to make a great movie. The missing of a concrete storyline gives a lot of space for own ideas. To me something I love. I am bored of all the cleverness in modern films and stories. "Amer" gives room for fantasy and imaginations. One of the bravest films I've seen for years. Thubs up. Hope to see more from those directors.
This movie is a awesome example of camera technique & photography of
movie maker. The only pb comes from the lack of interest of the script.
It's definitely a masterpiece in picture, color, light, photography,
camera movement and angle of vision management. To me it's more "Art"
than "Cinema" . The filmmaker is obviously putting camera technique at
his best but he should also more consider the storyline. At some point
it seems that all those skills in technique are a waste in a quit
boredom plot. I will categorize this "Amer" (bitter) in a "Art & Essai"
film. Of course past the fascination in the skills of the filmmaker,
come the moment when you feel like watching a succession of handsome
image & picture ...but it seems pointless because of the lack of
interest of the story. Even a slide of beautiful women/men become
interest-less ( topless or not !:^) when it last for too long.
I'm still admired of the way "Amer" was shooting but too bad the plot is interest-less.As a cinema lover i can only recommend to have a look for the sake of beauty but don't expect to be entertain. It is definitely not a "blockbuster" Hollywood or bollywood like !. To be short it a very good example of what American call "like a french movie" :^) ( despite it's also part of very good Belgian cinema !) 8/10 for the camera but only 4/10 for the plot
PS : a funny thing i've seen on the statement of the end, someone was "stunt" girl for the scene with an insect . It seem the actress Maria Bos was afraid of spider & Ant :)))) and couldn't let those little thing wander on her skin !
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