Monday, October 26, 2009

Amer (2009)

Review #0008

Winner of the public's price at the last Festival du nouveau cinéma, "Amer" is less of a simple variation than the savvy autopsy of the horror genre. It bares mechanisms so simple and effective they completely challenge the use of the constraining Hollywoodian narrative to propel the genre. Through technical breakdown, Cattet and Forzani create what is truly a pure incarnation of affect cinema, opposite to the talkative and theatrical American horror film. Thus, they successfully "visceralize" a genre too intellectual (too bourgeois) and stale. The experience is such that, despite blood, breasts, and gloved hands, the film feels more like a Pudovkin than an Argento.
"Amer" is above all an experience in editing, reminiscent of those undertook by the Soviets and French impressionists. Both the rhythm and texture of the film were created through editing, which builds horror as a sensual experience. The use of the close-up, which transforms the human eye in a telephoto lens, exacerbates the voyeurism inherent to the genre. The heroin's thighs fill the screen, then her fleshy lips, or her hair floating in the wind. Her pain also, and her fear, which we scrutinize in minute details. Onscreen, she is threatened by the killer's razor. Offscreen, she is threatened by the editor's scissors. Violence against her is twofold: she is both cut and bruised within the frame, but also fragmented between the frames. She is transformed in sensuality incarnate, represented simultaneously in all of its manifestations. She represents the "experience" of a woman from a killer's viewpoint. Also, she is confined to the frame, and surrounded by a menacing offscreen. By narrowing the borders of the frame, the close-up proportionally enlarges the offsceen, and the latent threats lying therein. All one has to do is imagine every shot as the subjective viewpoint of a killer. The heroin thus becomes surrounded, scrutinized perversely from within and from without. She is Laura Mulvey's typical victim of the male gaze. She is Argento's ballet dancer or Dreyer's Joan of Arc. Yet, the film also projects her own personal, sensual experience of the events unfolding. Through the rhytmic juxtaposition of close-ups, within which the sound is amplified to the point of physical sensation, editing creates the impression of being there, rather than simply exposing facts. The panicked gaze of the victim is emulated opposite to the perverse gaze of the killer, and thus is created affect, primordial tenet of the horror genre. Cattet and Forzani succeed mostly because they have put the spectator in its rightful place: caught between the pleasure of seeing (represented by the fetishistic fragmentation of the female figure), and the pain of experience (represented by the sensual fragmentation of the events onscreen). Hats off to them for their understanding of horror cinema as creation of affect instead of simple repetitions and variations on a theme. "Amer" is sure to draw a cult following.