SXSW 2010: AMER Review

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SXSW 2010: AMER Review
[With Amer screening as part of SXSW 2010 we now re-post my review from the film's premiere in Sitges.]

When dipping in to a long abandoned style, adopting a language and syntax of film distinct to a particular era, a film maker runs the risk of simply repeating what has already been done.  Of becoming little more than a very expensive Xerox machine.  But in the right hands things can be very different.  In the right hands the result is something striking and timeless.  In the right hands the language can be revived with all of the beauty and vitality that drew people to it in the first place.  And with Amer Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet prove beyond question that their hands are very definitely the right ones, their debut feature an impeccably crafted gem that stands as one of the very best films of the year.

Drawing on their beloved giallo films of the 1970s as inspiration, Forzani and Cattet have here created a film less concerned with plot than with sensation.  Following the life of Ana through three distinct phases - as child, adolescent and adult - Amer is a film driven by the experience of being watched.  The eye can be predatory. It can be sexual.  It can be stern.  But whatever it is, there is always an eye.  Someone is always watching.  Through a keyhole.  In a mirror.  Or an open, direct gaze.  Someone is always watching.

As the story goes, the film plays out in three distinct parts.  There is the childhood Ana, living through a single night of her life in the majestic old house in which her grandfather has just died, her superstitious grandmother living in the room adjacent to Ana's own and indulging in all manner of rites and rituals to ensure grandpa's safe passing.  There is adolescent Ana, walking with her mother for a day of shopping in the city.  And there is adult Ana, returning to her childhood home, presumably to repair the now decrepit estate for sale. But none of these sections are about what they are about on the surface, rather they are about the power of another's gaze to change a situation into something else entirely.  The young Ana is terrified by the attention of her grandmother.  The adolescent just beginning to draw the exciting attention of the opposite sex and coming to realize her own power.  The adult beginning to understand this attention more as a curse, a simple train ride become an unsettlingly sexualized experience and - in one particularly brilliant sequence - a cab driver literally undressing her with his eyes.

Shot on what appears to be vintage film stock and driven by brilliantly lush and complex sound design, Amer perfectly captures the feel and editing style of the original classic giallo pictures without ever becoming precious or coy about the exercise.  This is not a period film - the cars and other technology is current - but the recapturing of a lost style.  This is not mimicry but a performance from a stunningly talented pair of young directors who have mastered a lost language and made it purely and entirely their own, employing it to create their own work rather than recycling others'.  Flawless.


  • Hélène Cattet
  • Bruno Forzani
  • Hélène Cattet
  • Bruno Forzani
  • Cassandra Forêt
  • Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud
  • Marie Bos
  • Biancamaria D'Amato
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Hélène CattetBruno ForzaniCassandra ForêtCharlotte Eugène GuibeaudMarie BosBiancamaria D'AmatoHorrorThriller

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