Wednesday, February 16, 2011

DVD Review: Amer

Amer is... odd. Inspired by Italian 'Giallo' films from the 1970's, it is a richly sensory and complex film; one that your average cinema goer may find more than a little challenging.

Conceived by two directors - Héléne Cattet and Bruno Forzani, Amer takes place over three chapters, following a young girl called Ana as she moves from childhood to her teenage years and then on to adulthood.
The film contains little narrative, instead guiding us slowly through the it's loose story with image and sound. As a young girl Ana is apparently stalked by malevolent forces - including her parents scary, witch-like housekeeper, before walking in on her parents having sex. In her teens she becomes surly and pouting (didn't we all?) and appears to be leered at by men from every angle. And as an adult, Ana returns to her parents now dilapidated house, but there still seem to be dark forces at work.

It would be very easy to consider Amer to be a pretentious mess. It feels very art-house, though some of this may be down to it's two directors aping the style of the slew of 70's European slasher and exploitation flicks that proceed it. It arguably does a more convincing job of this than the recent combined efforts of Rodriguez/Tarantino with Grindhouse. Taking visual cues from the likes of Dario Argento, the film looks sumptuous. More impressive though is the sound design - even the most inconsequential sounds are magnified to an almost uncomfortable level. The cracking of a leather jacket or the brushing of skin are layered on the pulpy 70's electronic soundtrack, creating a sensory experience.

While the film looks and sounds impressive, it's not without fault. The middle chapter, which sees teenage Ana and her mother essentially taking a trick to her local shop, is long and drawn out. While the scenery is beautiful, it starts to feel self indulgent very quickly. The third section delves into the most familiar Giallo territory, with a masked assailant threatening an adult Ana.

Mostly, Amer feels like a film that will divide audiences. Some will see it as a searingly sensual piece of art, and others will think it's a mess of pretentious art-house imagery. Despite that, even those who think the latter will likely find it a hard film to forget. There just seems to be something about it...

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