Interview with Bruno Forzani, Co-director Of THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS

If I had to name my top five favorite films of all time, the Neo Giallo Amer would easily make that short list and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears would not be far behind. They are both films that have inspired and intrigued me both as a film writer and filmmaker. These films offer stunning visuals and complex interwoven plots that force the viewer to experience the film multiple times to unlock the secrets at the heart of these dark masterpieces.

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears opens in theaters in LA and New York Friday, and in anticipation of its release I got to chat with one half of the couple who are responsible for writing and directing these films, Bruno Forzani. He was kind enough to speak to me about not only the couple’s writing process, but their influences and why they love the Giallo as well.

Bruno, you’ve re-invented the Giallo for a new generation; I have to ask what are some that have inspired you as a filmmaker?

The main one would be Deep Red, because for Hélène and I it’s the film that allowed us to collaborate, because there was a mix of entertainment inside this film along with something more experimental not only about the cinemagraphic language but the architecture of it as well.

For The Strange Color, the Gialli of Sergio Martino that talk a lot about device, inspired us a lot like The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, All the Colors of the Dark. Those are the two main Giallis that inspired us on The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears.

Are there any films that inspire you now as filmmakers?

Now? David Lynch, but that is not really recent, that is about 20 years ago.

It’s not about inspiration, but the last film that blew me away was The Raid 2. It’s very generous, and like a firewalk of action, and when I got out of the theater I was in another state of mind. It’s that kind of feeling I really enjoy when I am going to watch a movie.

Like Amer, music is an integral part of The Strange Color, with you often using pieces of music from other films. How do you go about choosing music for your films and who are some of your favorite composers?

It’s when we write we choose the music, as we are big soundtrack collectors. When we are writing the script at home we are listening to CDs and at one moment one piece may inspire us, so we start listening to the track on a loop and it begins to give us a kind of fever. It inspires us to write the sequence.

One of our favorites especially for The Strange Color is Ennio Morricone, we were keen to use the more experimental music he has made like the one from the Short Night of Glass Dolls. For Amer we had used the song from The Black Belly of the Tarantula; it was more natural, where we wanted something more experimental for this film.

Bruno and Hélène

Have you ever thought about releasing your soundtracks for fellow collectors?

I would love to, but the music is from so many different companies and composers and we have rights only to inside the movie. So for the moment there is no plan to release a soundtrack.

The sound design in The Strange Color definitely seems like you put a lot of thought into the soundscape, like it could be its own character within the film. But it also feels very different from Amer.

Totally, in fact the universe of The Strange Color is very fantastic and in Amer it is very naturalistic. The fact that we were more in the fantasy and fantastic, it allowed us to go deeper into the ambiance. So what we wanted to do was a very physical movie, so we worked a lot on the bass sound, because it is very physical.

When you press play on the bass sound you feel it on your hand and inside your body, so we worked a lot on the bass to have the sound of the film really get inside of your body, you know your belly. Hélène was pregnant when we were working on the sound mix, in postproduction and for some sequences she couldn’t stay in the room because you know, the sound really got into her belly. (Laughs.)

Like Amer, all of the sound is done in post-production, it was shot with direct sound, but we recreated everything with a foley guy. It’s a very precise way to work. It can give you a lot of freedom in the sound, because it is not a realistic balance between the image and the sound.

Being very visual filmmakers, what is the script writing process like — do you start with a visual and work from there or vice versa?

At the beginning it’s the idea and we try to develop the idea for the visual and the sound in a surrealistic way. We don’t try to develop the story for dialog, character or psychology but for a very organic and cinemagraphic storytelling. In fact for the storytelling we have been very inspired by Satoshi Kon, who said the writing for Millennium Actress was a very stereoscopic writing, the film is supposed is to be seen several times and each time you see it, you’re supposed to discover a new layer. The film just goes deeper and deeper.

The writing of The Strange Color and for Amer too, it was very much in that way of writing. We used the stereoscopic writing and for us our films aren’t meant to be seen just once, but several times, because you discover motifs new interpretations and new layers. The first screening is more like an experience, you shouldn’t maybe try to understand all, but enjoy the trip and travel 1 hours and 40 minutes and to live it and experience it. After the second and third screening you will discover some links between the stories and the film will become clearer.

You use a lot of symbolism in your films, would you like to elaborate on how that comes into play with your writing?

We try to have a very surrealistic process during the writing, where we use our subconscious. We don’t have a theory about symbolism, but it comes naturally when you work with your subconscious in a dream-like universe. Like in dream or nightmare you have symbols, but we don’t want to pressure them, they just come along sometimes, if they are too big, too tough we reject them. But sometimes they create links inside the movie.

I know you and Hélène are also a couple; what is that collaboration like in writing and filmmaking?

At the beginning we were always saying it was very fusional, now it has been 14 years we have been working together. At the beginning Hélène has an idea, a concept. After I develop it in the writing and do a version, she does a version and on the set we both do the directing, the actors, the framing, etcetera. I know we have a lot of shots to do, so I try to be very efficient to get the most shots per day. Hélène is more precise, because I want to go fast, but she is like wait a minute, another take for this or that, and I think there is a balance between us.

This professional life is our intimate life and sometimes it’s a bit difficult, because you mix the film and the life and for a project like The Strange Color where we worked on it for 11 years. On holidays we would work on the script, the holidays became nightmares because we were always arguing about the script. It constructs our relationship, but it destructs it too. Each time we say we won’t work together, we start a new project; it’s our hell and our paradise. (Laughs.)

Back to The Strange Color, the production design and sets in film are gorgeous. What inspired the look of the film and the beautiful frescos we see throughout the film?

In the sets we were very inspired by the art nouveau, because we live in Brussels and it was the architecture of Brussels at the beginning of last century. So this art nouveau interested us, because of all of these curves, the storytelling was full of curves and also for the representation of woman, because the main subject of the movie is the fantasy of a guy. So it’s very much about the fantasy of women and in art nouveau they are always represented as goddesses.

So this was the perfect link between art nouveau and fantastic.

Speaking of women, even though you’re doing Giallos the women depicted in your films are often strong and in charge of their sexuality; that’s a rare thing for genre.

I think that comes from the fact that we are a female and male director and inside of this movie there is a female and male point of view. When we work together Hélène and I try to be fair and have the right balance, so it’s for that we have strong female characters.

We try in the violent and erotic sequences to have the women be the strongest they could possibly be in a horror film.

Finally, what genres would you eventually like to work in, in the future?

Personally, I would love to do a Spaghetti Western, or even why not a zombie movie, but in a Italian way of doing it. It would be small and iconographic like the Fulci one, it’s very iconographic for me when the living dead come out of the grave.

But because the Giallo allowed me and Hélène to collaborate it became very intimate.

For the next project, it’s a book adaptation from French writers Jean-Patrick Manchette & Jean-Pierre Bastid, the book is titled Laissez bronzer les cadavres or in English Let The Corpses Tan. When we read it, it reminded us of a Spaghetti Western.

After this movie we would like to come back to Giallo and do a third part to Strange Color and Amer.

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