From the London Film Festival: ‘Let the Corpses Tan’

Let the Corpses Tan is An utterly bizarre psychosexual thriller from the unique minds of Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, the writer-director team behind the similarly weird The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears.

Three men rob an armoured van of gold. They then return to their hideout, a ruinous town in the mountains seemingly owned by an artist and his wife. Add to the mix a long lost family, two cops and a traitorous lawyer and you’ve got yourself a stand off! Some want to make it down the mountain with the gold; others just want to escape with their lives.

The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears was a fantastic revisiting of the Italian horror Giallo genre (a genre I happen to be very fond of). Here they turn their attention to psychedelic westerns, particularly the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Consequently Let the Corpses Tan is incredibly violent, unapologetically weird and extremely fun.

The film is beautiful. The cinematography and editing is dedicated to creating the maximum impact at all times. Scenes of a family lunch are wrought with tension and intensity. You can’t help but be fully engaged by the film. There’s a palpable sense of tension from knowing that a visceral moment of extreme violence may leap out at you at any moment.

The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears was criticised for being, as the old cliche goes, all style and no substance. Although there is an abundance of stylishness going on in Let the Corpses Tan, Cattet and Forzani’s new movie cannot be sniped at in the same way; there are characters and an intriguing plot to go along with the impressive visuals.

The more fascinating characters are the female ones who remain magnanimous throughout. There are some fairly gratuitous moments of nudity, including a sequence in which a young woman’s clothes are shot off with machine gun fire, leaving her unharmed.

Some of the stranger images of the film are a result of the hallucinations and fantasies of the artist, who imagines a mysterious woman painted gold participating in various fetishes to the music of Ennio Morricone. This and other dreams are the only real departures from conventional narrative.

The sound design deserves to be highlighted. The  gunshots are titanic, but I particularly enjoyed the creaking of leather throughout the film. Sometimes this creaking accompanies the panning of the camera to a very surreal but provocative effect.

The decision to play with time as a device is interesting. Inter-titles display the time throughout the film, with the same few minutes being revisited again and again. This allows the Cattet and Forzani to explore different characters’ reactions to the same event. There’s a great deal of playfulness in the film’s structure, as well as its style.

There is undoubtedly a debt owed to Tarantino (and at times this really invoked The Hateful Eight), but it also feels like a Best of Ben Wheatley movie. There’s the upsetting gore of Kill List, the dark humour of Sightseers, the experimental psychedelia of A Field In England, and the standoff premise of Free Fire. This may not be as strong as a Wheatley effort, but the ingredients of a great cult movie are all there.

This is born to be a cult midnight movie. It’s endlessly rewarding and thrilling.

4 / 5

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