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Interview: Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet (Amer)

About the way of writing a plot open to interpretation, our biggest influence is Satoshi Kon and Millenium Actress. About the second part of the film, the eroticism of Pinku’s director Masaru Konuma and the first experimental films of Tinto Brass. About the work on details and editing, Shinya Tsukamoto. About the thematic, Dominique Deruddere’s Crazy Love.

Giallo films are an acquired taste, to be sure, but many influential filmmakers have come up through the giallo ranks, including Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci. Many films in this subgenre of horror are often accused of adhering so strictly to its own well-established conventions – the black-gloved killer, the tight eye close-ups, the erotic overtones, etc. – that the films themselves become almost interchangeable. To make that accusation is to show a lack of understanding of what giallo fans and filmmakers love about them: they are more about a feeling than they are about what’s actually happening on the screen. Story, while still important, becomes almost secondary to style. That’s never been more apparent than in Amer, a France-Belgium co-production from co-writers/directors Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet, two filmmakers whose love of giallo shines through in their two previous shorts, 2004’s La fin de notre amour and 2006’s Santos Palace

Amer, the duo’s first feature-length film that has enjoyed a very successful festival run and is set to open in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on October 29th, is more of a tribute to all the things they love about giallo films than it is a true giallo film itself. Just about everything that happens in this story about three important moments of self-discovery in a girl/woman’s life involves some visual or aural characteristic of the giallo films Forzani and Cattet so clearly adore. Plus, it has one of the coolest homage posters ever! The two filmmakers were gracious enough to answer some of our questions below.

Bruno Forzani Hélène Cattet Amer Interview

Jason Widgington: Belgium’s filmic output in the horror genre is fairly limited, with 1970s-style sexually-charged horror/fantasy like Harry Kumel’s Les Levres Rouges (aka Daughters of Darkness) or dark and intense fare like Fabrice Du Welz’ more recent Calvaire (aka The Ordeal) being a couple of better known examples. Giallo is not a subgenre that Belgium is known for, to say the least. How did your love for the genre come about?
Bruno Forzani: For me, all began when I was 8 years old, there was a poster of Dario Argento’s “Tenebrae” in a videoclub: I was totally fascinated by this beautiful dead blue lady. A few years after, I was a slasher fan, but I soon got bored of it because at the end it was always the same thing…Then I asked the (Italian) guy who was working at the videoclub to give me something new… and he gave me “Tenebrae”! And what a blast!! The level was so much higher, exploitation became Art!

Hélène Cattet: I discovered giallo when I met Bruno. I immediately fell in love with it because it was a unique kind of cinema which mixed entertainment and experimental. Even if it was exploitation, there was a kind of free and daring spirit which lead to incredible sequences in terms of its directing and excesses. It’s that spirit that we both love : it has united us to direct together!

Bruno Forzani Hélène Cattet Amer Interview

Widgington: Amer means bitter. How does that title describe the three phases of Ana’s self-discovery in the film?
Forzani: Bitter suggests the taste, one of the five senses. Our way of driving the narration is sensitive, visceral. As the theme is the discovery of the body, of desire, of sensuality, it was important for us to try to communicate the sensations of the main character (Ana) to the audience, to try to make the audience understand the story as if it was in the character’s skin. We would like that the spectator follows the subject of the film by this sensitive drive of the story.

Bruno Forzani Hélène Cattet Amer Interview

Widgington: After viewing your film, I found myself wanting to re-visit some of the classics from Argento, Bava, early-era Fulci, et al. Is it safe to say that Amer is a deliberate attempt at reviving the subgenre or perhaps of generating new interest in giallo’s history?
Forzani: Our goal wasn’t an attempt to revive giallo but to continue what we have made with our short films, to talk about an intimate subject through giallo’s universe… which gave us such pleasure as an audience and gave us the faith to make movies.

In “Amer”, we’re using the giallo’s language to speak about the discovery of body, desire and sexuality of a girl. It’s not a detective story, it’s the intimate portrait of a girl with her fears and desires… and what could be more appropriate to talk about “fear and desire” than with giallo’s iconography?

Widgington: The use of minimal dialogue in the film leaves much of the plot open to interpretation by the viewers. In fact, Amer is more an homage to the visual and aural stylings of the genre than it is a pure giallo-style Italian thriller. What are some of your other filmmaking influences, other than giallo?
Forzani: About the way of writing a plot open to interpretation, our biggest influence is Satoshi Kon and Millenium Actress. About the second part of the film, the eroticism of Pinku’s director Masaru Konuma and the first experimental films of Tinto Brass. About the work on details and editing, Shinya Tsukamoto. About the thematic, Dominique Deruddere’s Crazy Love.

Widgington: The cinematography is quite stunning and very evocative of the early wave of European jet-set thrillers, like Bava’s La ragazza che sapeva troppo (aka The Girl Who Knew Too Much). Does your director of photography have extensive experience in giallo films?
Forzani: We worked on all our shorts with our director of photography, Manu Dacosse, who is a friend. He is the total opposite of us: we had a drink with him one week ago and he told us that he had finally watched the Suspiria dvd we offered him 5 years ago… but it was a joke!! He’s a big fan of Tony Scott but not of giallo!

Widgington: The use of sound and music in Amer is remarkable. Most of the musical cues were borrowed from some classic films. Can you name some of them and explain why you decided to use these instead of having a soundtrack of wholly original music?
Forzani: We are big soundtracks collectors. We were listening to these tunes when we wrote the script… and then we couldn’t imagine the sequences without them! The music gave us the ideas and the rhythm on these sequences and it was funny to re-use them far from their original context and to change their meanings (for instance, pick a poliziescho tune to tell the intimacy of a young girl as in Stelvio Cipriani’s La polizia chiede aiuto in the second part of the film). Regarding the beautiful Morricone tune in LA TARANTOLA DEAL VENTRO NERO, we knew it before actually seeing the giallo from 1971… and we were a bit disappointed when we saw the sequence of the cop’s wife cooking a chicken, so we wanted to re-use it in a more dramatic moment (the return of the main character to the house of her childhood).

Widgington: What comes after Amer? What sorts of projects are next for the two of you?
Forzani: We have been writing a script for 6 years now called The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears… as you can see with the title there will be a strong link with giallo again!

Olive Films opens Amer in NYC and L.A theaters on Friday, October 29th.

[Top image photo credit: Trypode]

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