18th Oct2017

LFF 2017: ‘Let the Corpses Tan’ Review

by Guest

Review by Matthew Turner

Stars: Elina Lowensohn, Stephane Ferrara, Bernie Bonvoisin, Herve Sogne, Michelangelo Marchese, Marc Barbe, Pierre Nisse, Marine Sainsily, Dorilya Calmel, Aline Stevens, Dominique Troyes, Bamba | Written and Directed by Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani

LET-THE-CORPSES-TAN-poster

Belgian co-directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani garnered an instant cult following with Amer (2009) and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013), both of which paid luxurious homage to 1970s giallo movies. Their latest film, Let the Corpses Tan (or Laissez Bronzer les Cadavres, original language fans) sees the pair applying their expert pastiche skills to violent European crime thrillers of the same decade, to deliriously enjoyable effect.

Loosely adapted from a 1971 French novel by Jean-Patrick Machete and Jean-Pierre Bastid, the plot is deceptively simple and a good deal more coherent than either of Cattet and Forzani’s previous films. Former Hal Hartley muse Elina Lowensohn plays Luce, a middle-aged artist who lives in a run-down, castle-like compound on the sun-baked Meditteranean coast, along with alcoholic writer Bernier (Marc Barbe) and her younger lawyer lover (Michelangelo Marchese).

When grizzled crime boss Rhino (Stephane Ferrara) pulls off an armoured car raid and escapes with 250 kg of gold, he brings his thuggish gang to Luce’s compound, aiming to lay low. Things are further complicated by the unexpected arrival of Bernier’s wife (Sorylia Calmel), son (Bamba) and maid (Marine Sainsily). And when two motorcycle cops (Herve Sogne and Dominique Troyes) arrive in pursuit of the gangsters, the compound erupts in a vicious shoot-out, the air as thick with crosses and double-crosses as it is with bullets.

The actors have mostly been cast for their striking or unusual physicality, as there’s very little dialogue in the film. The characters are essentially grotesques and archetypes and the script keeps them all at arm’s length, so that you’re not particularly invested in any of them when the shooting starts, resulting in a weird disconnect that forces you to pay attention to the stylistic tropes instead.

It’s fair to say that Cattet and Forzani are at the top of their game when it comes to the art of pastiche and there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in simply admiring their work. Accordingly, Let the Corpses Tan is packed with the trappings of ’70s European crime thrillers, including Spaghetti western-style extreme close-ups, tricksy editing, vibrant colours, loud bursts of sound and surreal imagery, much of it involving gold dust and naked bodies, like somebody saw Goldfinger one too many times. In addition, the film is shot in super-16mm, to give it the feel of authentically grainy celluloid that might catch fire in the grate at any moment.

In addition, Cattet and Forzani employ a disjointed structure, using periodic time-stamps (the film takes place over 24 hours) to allow for certain action sequences to be replayed from different perspectives. The film is also heightened by some superb sound design work that accentuates certain sounds to an almost comical degree – witness every cacophonous creak of Rhino’s leather jacket, for example.

Ultimately, Let the Corpses Tan may lack an emotional connection, but it more than makes up for it in sheer stylistic excess, resulting in a delirious deluge of colour, sound and outright weirdness. Great soundtrack too.

**** 4/5

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