“The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears” has its Madison premiere Friday at 7 p.m. at the UW-Cinematheque screening room, 4070 Vilas Hall. R, 1:36, two and a half stars out of four. FREE!
360-degree whirls, time lapse, split screens — at times, the horror film “The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears” feels like the entire syllabus to a Filmmaking Techniques course. An homage to Italian giallo films, Helen Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s phantasmagoric film is overflowing with inventiveness. Does it matter that we have no idea what is going on?
That’s a serious question, because “Body’s Tears” is much more about the image than the plot, an erotic fever dream as much as a discernable narrative. This much we know: Dan (Klaus Tange) returns home from a business trip to discover his wife is missing. No note, no sign of struggle — she just isn’t there.
Your first clue that something is wrong is that “home” is a bizarre Art Nouveau apartment building where the walls curve sinisterly and are wallpapered with eerie nymph-like creatures. With the police no help, Dan starts exploring the apartment building and finding cryptic clues that something supernatural is at play here. Nearly everyone Dan meets, from a detective to an old woman whose face we never see, has a tale of some mysterious disappearance to tell Dan.
But even giving this much plot is misleading, suggesting that Dan’s quest to find his wife is in any way linear. Instead, the film feels like an interlocking series of dreams, repeated images, hallucinations, often set to a groovy soundtrack of ’60s and ’70s tracks that make “Body’s Tears” feel like the ultimate midnight-movie head trip. Trickles of blood are a repeated motif, as are naked bodies, and eyes widening in horror at the unseen.
I found it a lot of fun to watch, but also somewhat distancing — never for a second do you sympathize with Dan’s plight or fear for him. Instead of dreading what was around the next corner or behind the next locked door, I was fascinated to see what Cattet and Forzani would come up with next. As a pastiche and an homage, the film is a blast for giallo fans. It’s just a shame that nobody, least of all us, seems to care whether poor Dan finds his wife or not.