It seems stupid to evaluate poetry in prose. The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears ought to be silent for how many words it contains, and for what good they do in communicating just about anything. It’s set entirely in and around an apartment building where staircases flow like melted wax, walls are carved out of stained glass, and every floor is covered in scarlet carpeting. It is beautiful, bubbling nonsense.
Dan (Klaus Tange) comes home from a business trip to find his wife gone and all of the messages he left on the machine unlistened-to. He gets black-out drunk, calls the police, and buzzes every one of his neighbors. He talks to a woman who is bathed in black shadows whose husband disappeared, too, inside of the walls. Hands are shown writhing underneath wallpaper and burrowing into skin — there is something to do distinctly with being inside.
The detective comes over and tells a story about a man with a beard who takes photos, mostly of women, it seems, and scenes repeat, stilted and in black and white: sharp, glistening blades held in leather-sheathed hands running over nipples and skin, sensuous, moaning, always concluded with a stabbing.
The intention, in some way, is to imitate the style of an Italian giallo, a type of movie made mostly in the 60s & 70s that involved murderers, made most famous by the likes of Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Sergio Martino, and others. The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears brings to mind Argento’s Inferno most obviously, if only because of its setting, but the bizarre, bright, unnaturally colorful palette is the same, too — the visual trademark of the genre. The title brings to mind Martino’s All The Color’s Of The Dark.
Thinking that this is an imitation is a mistake; giallo fans probably won’t be able to sit through Strange Color. It moves slowly, when it moves at all. It is composed almost entirely of insert shots and close-ups. It is intentionally vague — perhaps too vague — but the way that it is telling its story is far more important than the story itself. It is not that the movie favors style over substance, but that it is banking that style is substance; this is a concept that is not new to gialli. Strange Color would probably have worked equally as well as a series of photographs, full of mystery, loose threads of story strung across like string on tacks.
It is in love with the past: characters listen only to records (one of them made out of glass), do not use cell phones but instead use rotary phones. However, the paging system from the front door of the apartment building is rigged with a high-tech video camera system, and one sequence shows Dan paging himself into the building, reminiscent of a scene in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. But Strange Color is so much more than a series of reference points and in-jokes. It isn’t that at all. It is one of the best movies I’ve seen so far this year, influenced heavily — personally, intuitively — by the culture that has come before it and surrounds it, but a piece that exists all its own, a buzzing and living piece of actual poetry.