In the argument of “style over substance,” movies like Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Let The Corpses Tan make a case for limitless artistic boundaries. In every sense, this is a Giallo-fied Spaghetti Western stand-off that feeds off ambition. Like a six-shooter filled with posh glitter, liquified gold, graphic gore and creative architecture unlike anything mainstream cinema will back. There’s a narrative, but it’s flimsy and underdeveloped with full intent – all focus is on the exploration of cinematic techniques. Cattet and Forzani never care if you even know a character’s name, as they’re only interested in how their craniums will splatter when popped by a steel-manufactured projectile.
Yet, nonetheless, there is indeed a story at play – criminals who hide out with a vacationing family, and the two cops who spark a can-go-wrong, will-go-wrong exchange. Rhino (Stephane Ferrara) fights for his gang’s stolen gold, Luce (Elina Löwensohn) stirs the pot, her young lawyer lover cries treachery – it’s all very “involved.” Why is Bernie Bonvoisin’s character naked for so long? What’s the alcoholic writer’s inclusion worth (played by Marc Barbe)? The only constant is that hidden somewhere in the ruin-like coastal villa are stolen bars of shimmering gold, and everyone wants to find them. Rhino’s gang for profit, police officers for justice (Herve Sogne, Dominique Troyes). Someone’s going to walk away from it all a richer man or woman – but not before outsmarting/outgunning their competition.
Let The Corpses Tan is a sensory overload of Italian cinematic influences and arthouse symbolism, never one to define rooted meaning. Sometimes explanations are not needed – cut to ants scurrying atop a printed overhead snap of the film’s maze-like location as characters simultaneously run and gun – while other metaphors seem more for show. It becomes salaciously obvious, for example, that Luce is getting off on all the unpredictable violence – but is that her being represented as Mother Earth/God in these religion-heavy fantasies? A naked woman urinating on faces or wrapped in rope bondage, leaking champagne from her breasts? Oh, this is just the tip of Cattet and Forzani’s iceberg. Think Free Fire and Reservoir Dogs as a splatterhouse art installation, provocation the goal.
Keeping “weirdness” in-check, exploitation violence remains cavalier and gunslinging; technical experimentation too breathtaking to give up on. You’ll jump more than a cheap-o horror film watch thanks to powder-keg sound design – headshots and blasted weapons breaking the chilliest silence – while visuals dance a deadly game of abstract representation. Characters don’t just die, they’re splattered with melted gold while bullets first splash runny riches, only before a reddish, viscous gelatin fills the screen, projectiles leaving pathways as to suggest ammo ripping through a fleshy figure. Colors denote and classify tone (red = rage, etc), cinematography leans on Western zooms that constantly frame a desperado’s eyes (plus whip-crack editing), a fixation on fire filters anything red and sizzles on high volume – f*$k your generic shoot-em-up. Action can be artistic.
Cattet and Forzani visualize Let The Corpses Tan through sound and fury. Surrealism and smoking guns. This is technically their tightest attempted script to date, but that’s only in catalog comparison. By cinematic standards, it’s like lighting a firework and hoping for the best. Praying you won’t need clear character motivations or a roadmap to each backstab. Frankly, names are said and we’re left recalling blanks on which actor’s being referred to – but with intentions clear, Let The Corpses Tan becomes a fetishistic midnight explosion of sex, guns and rock n’ roll that’d make Hunter S. Thompson squeal. It’s not for those who require rigid story structures and best enjoyed by others who find pleasure in being pushed past normalcy.
While actors may be nothing but test subjects for Cattet and Forzani, this doesn’t stop performances from standing out. Stephane Ferrara, plays a leather-wrapped Rhino with a stylized coolness that belongs in Sin City or some other underworld-slick thriller. Herve Sogne transforms from a duty-bound cop to a trapped, psychotic rat as his escape becomes less realistic, while Elina Löwensohn’s a temptress who presses men against open pig carcasses for a quickie or writhes with sexual excitement as whizzing bullets fly wildly. These are characters who air on the side of gonzo giddiness, because performance art can be just as odd as crafted portraits of bottled madness. Just ask Löwensohn.
Let The Corpses Tan is a stunning display of visual seduction and slaughter-first gunplay, if not somewhat distracted by a skeletal script that’s been stripped of all meatiness. You’re not here for The Departed, you’re here for Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. You’re here for their overtly-sexual depiction of trigger-happy carnage. You’re here for the sweet (and obsessive) sound of leather squeaking in a distinct biker-jacket way that’s still far out-fetished by actual taboo fantasies. You’re here for booming bullet-blasts that reverberate through your soul, sloppy blood squirts and glorified action beautification that desecrates an idyllic European getaway. You may not have an ever-loving clue what exactly’s going on, but oddly, that’s half the fun – the other half is being slapped and spanked by stimulating genre glorification.
Let The Corpses Tan is a fetishistic, ultra-violent exploitation flick that's all kinds of artistic and exciting when it comes to midnighter execution(s).