Amer (2009)

If you have a hard-on for the works of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, you’ll love Amer, a quasi-anthology French film that pays tribute to those Italian masters. While the giallo celebration’s title translates to “bitter,” Amer is oh-so-sweet, a thrilling debut from filmmakers Hélenè Cattet and Bruno Forzani. Does it hurt that it contains the best visual representation of an orgasm I’ve ever seen? Aucun.

The movie is comprised of three chapters in the life of Ana, first as an only child (Cassandra Forêt) who lives in a lakeside mansion with her parents and an elderly housekeeper they suspect of being a witch. Told with an array of eyeballs and keyholes in extreme close-ups, it’s the most overtly horror portion, imparting a strong, unsettling vibe reminiscent of the “Drop of Water” segment from Bava’s Black Sabbath.

The middle (and shortest) part of Amer finds Ana as an adolescent (Charlotte Eugène Guibbaud) with bee-stung lips and a budding sexuality that threatens to turn into danger, as she accompanies her mother (Bianca Maria D’Amato) on a walk into the dizzying, labyrinthian cobblestone streets of the nearby village. By the final tale, Ana is a full-blown gorgeous woman (Marie Bos) returning to her childhood home now abandoned and in disrepair … and complete with one of those black-gloved, razor-wielding psychos on the grounds.

If the music score sounds spot-on, it should, sporting ’70s cuts from Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai and Stelvio Cipriani, putting it squarely at the head of the class of giallo grad school. Amer may baffle those whose viewing habits don’t cross oceans, but I found it absolutely absorbing and fascinating — the art film at its most accessible. Take a stab at it. —Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

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