“Having recently been exhibited for the first time at The Living Art Museum, Iceland, Italian Artist O.B. De Alessi’s short film ‘Kuo’s Eyes’ has so far only been observed by a few. I felt incredibly lucky that she offered to show it to me long before any further release.

I have been following De Alessi’s work for a few years now, namely her haunting, monochrome illustrations of children, who reside within the spooky visual narratives that it is left up to the audience to conjure.
The drawings in her zines, ‘I Murder So That I May Come Back’ and ‘Theme Of Sadness’ (Kiddiepunk press) are concerned neither with the thought, nor the event itself, but the space – or rather, the feelings, between worlds.
It is within a liminal state that we are invited to build a narrative around the children’s’ expressive, often scowling faces, and it is they whom set the mood for each piece.

Kuo’s Eyes is her latest dreamlike creation, with husband & Artist/Filmmaker, Michael Salerno as Director Of Photography. The film seems to bring her beautifully unsettling drawings to life, along with a suitably unnerving soundtrack.

It’s interesting to see a saturated, colour version of her worlds within worlds; it’s almost as if her illustrations, although monochrome pencil drawings, evoke a similar colour palette. The blues and greys of the crumbling plaster walls on set resemble De Alessi’s pencil shading techniques, whilst other scenarios utilise the vivid, blood red I feel like I’ve seen in her monochrome work.
Red is the colour of many things here; from the ball a boy plays with, to the stains on his bandaged eyes as he lies recovering from a situation as yet unrealised in the opening scene.

“I’m looking for my eyes, do you know where they are?” Asks Kuo, a young boy of around seven years of age.

What has happened to Kuo’s eyes? We are taken on a journey which feels like the tension just before something truly integral snaps, to find out. But the moment is drawn out for the length of the film; like the last moment before waking from a particularly unsettling dream.
Some of the imagery stirs a kind of strange esoteric symbolism via De Alessi’s use of colour and props; like someone is putting us in a hypnotic state so that we may rediscover something long forgotten, through signs and prophetic visions, as if it were too traumatic to remember all at once.

In what seems like a flashback to just before Kuo lies bandaged, we see what appears to be a sinister blonde woman in a purple dress, with no face, hiding amongst Kuo’s mother’s drying sheets. Her hands are bright red.

Though it utilises colours such as red in its symbolism, De Alessi’s film does not rely on an overdose of sudden scares or excessive blood, but rather the brooding suggestion of something hidden in the feeling in between. However unsettling, an air of innocence and gentleness pervades throughout. For instance, Kuo carries with him an ally in his favourite stuffed animal, a furry, black, bat-like creature with glowing eyes. I felt as though I were a child at play in a world of his own creation; protected by my stuffed animal friend, yet terrified of harm coming to him. As if from within my own imagined dream.

And so, we follow the child as events unfold within a feeling.
The focus shifts from child to adult and back again throughout and these differing perspectives are perceived by the adult viewer. It would be interesting to know what a child would make of it, too.
It has a magical/otherworldly feel, like the strangest fairy tale. Perhaps De Alessi is suggesting that becoming an adult is in many ways like feeling our way in the dark, as Kuo must do, on his journey of discovery with it’s inevitable pitfalls, while at the same time we are reminded by De Alessi herself on screen (she plays Kuo’s Aunt) that it would be great to remain a child.

I wonder whether the entire film was intended to be perceived as being observed from within a liminal state; it was as if by watching it, I’d dreamed as somebody else, perhaps as O.B. De Alessi.”




Writer DENNIS COOPER mentions Kuo’s Eyes in his list of favourite films of 2016!

Read about it on his blog