It’s been said many times before, mostly because it’s true: either you give a shit about Giallo or you don’t. I’m hardly an expert on the genre, but in my dabbling I think I’ve sampled enough to know this much about myself: I wish I liked them more. They are so dang stylish and beautiful to look at, but often times the circuitous mystery plot loses my interest and I find myself appeased only by bright-colored gore, which frankly gets old after a while. It’s possible I blew my Giallo load by watching too many of them in a short period of time, causing their plots, directors and titles to get jumbled into a hot, Italian mess. But then comes along Amer, a beautiful homage to the genre that makes me want to revisit all those old movies anew.
Amer doesn’t have much of a plot to speak of; it relies much more on style to tell its tale. It is centered around Ana during three pivotal moments in each stage of her life. Each segment takes place in or around her family’s creepy, old mansion overlooking the seaside. In the first, Ana discovers her nanny/housekeeper/old-lady-who-makes-her-food is also a witch, her dead grandfather maybe isn’t so dead, and her parents having sex. In the second, the adolescent Ana (and her jealous mother) are painfully aware of her budding sexuality, and a trip into town turns into a clear rape threat as her
flirting with a boy her own age drags her into the territory of some leather-bound bikers who can’t help but lick their chops as the wind creeps up Ana’s very short dress. In the final sequence, Ana returns home to the now-dilapidated mansion, presumably after her parents have passed away. The taxi driver who drives her there ogles her through the rear-view mirror, and Ana seems both excited and distraught by the palpable sexuality in the vehicle.
Though there isn’t really a plot, Amer is compelling and intriguing throughout. There is barely any dialogue, and so we are guessing at each character’s motivations, fears and desires, which is a large part of the fun, and kept me engaged and excited for each new turn. The film’s directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani pull out all the stops, nodding to every genre convention you can possibly
imagine, straight down to a score loaded with tracks from old Italian films. Even still, the tale they present here is more interesting than any Giallo I can ever remember seeing, and though a story of a vaguely threatened woman is not at all original, presenting it within the confines of this genre works really well. Nearly every scene oozes eroticism and about as much sexual suggestion as a Georgia O’Keefe painting, but there is very little sex or nudity; instead we are faced mostly with voyeurism and fluids that aren’t bodily, but may as well be.
I can imagine watching this film with no background in Giallo and finding myself very confused indeed! But I think the reason why I liked this film so much is because it
takes everything I like about Gialli and eschews the confusing plot, allowing the viewer to focus on the interior of the main character rather than a million plot threads and unnecessary characters. I suppose the real question is, though, can someone go into this movie with no knowledge of such films and still enjoy it? I think the answer is yes, with many, many qualifications. Most notably, don’t watch this if you’re really interested in a story. While, yes, there is a story here, I can imagine a great many folks saying nothing happened in this movie at all. Anyway, what story there is definitely plays second fiddle to the images that tell it. In fact, I’m certain Cattet and Forzani chose this subject matter because it lends itself so well to such imagery. If nothing else, Amer is a beautifully crafted film; that much can’t be denied. Personally, I think it’s worth watching for that reason alone. Bottom line: Cattet and Forzani know what they are doing, and I don’t think they care if you like it or not. Me? I love it.