Locarno 2017: Cattet and Forzani’s Let the Corpses Tan

“Stylish swagger goes full-tilt boogie in Let the Corpses Tan (Laissez bronzer les cadavres), the latest delirious exercise in lovingly retro pastiche from Brussels-based writer-directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani,” begins Neil Young in the Hollywood Reporter. “Having amassed a devoted cult following with luridly horror-flavored Amer (2009) and The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013), the duo now adapt an influential 1971 French novel. The result is a spectacularly assaultive, borderline incoherent neo-Western that will recruit few new converts but is also guaranteed to leave no spectator indifferent.”

Notebook editor Daniel Kasman: “Nearly without story—a criminal gang steals gold bullion and holes up in disheveled Corsican lair run by a ‘madwoman’ and also housing the gang’s lawyer and washed up novelist—the plot is mostly a choreography of gun battles with two motorcycle cops, the ensuing tactical maneuvers around the isolated hilltop compound, psychedelic flourishes and an uncountable amount of sensual close-ups of weapons, eyes, leather and gold.”

“The poster art, the color grain and Scope filming all convey the impression of something that comes from the time of the spaghetti western or classic Italian giallo,” writes Screen’s Alan Hunter. “You almost expect to see Dario Argento or Mario Bavo’s name on the credits . . . The craftsmanship on display in Let The Corpses Tan is flawless.”

“The filmmakers orchestrate an incredible sensory symphony,” writes Aurore Engelen at Cineuropa, adding that “both sound and images rain down, as if ricocheting off the white-hot stones under the Corsican sun. The soundtrack only exaggerates a fetish for leather, guns and engines. Classic scenes roll in, one after the other, with a particularly exquisite meal scene where the tone rises in crescendo between Elina Löwensohn and Bernie Bonvoisin. The casting is a reflection of our diverse galaxy,” and includes Marc Barbé, Hervé Sognes, Pierre Nisse, Stéphane Ferrara, and Michelangelo Marchese.

Update, 9/2:Daniel Kasman once again, here for Cinema Scope: “Shot on Super 16 CinemaScope in deliciously lurid color by Manu Dacosse, backed by old music cues by Ennio Morricone (who else?) and featuring a sound design heavy on panting, scrunched leather, and the click-clack cocking of firearms, Let the Corpses Tan transforms genre pulp into pop art, keeping fetishism intact and frequently erupting into abstraction.”

Update, 9/10: Cattet and Forzani “have gone about in some kind of relative obscurity since their first feature Amer in 2009,” writes Ethan Vestby at the Film Stage. “While that striking debut perhaps should’ve garnered them more attention, as well as the subsequent The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, it feels safe to say they’re not out to get that crossover hit. If anything, they seem content kind of just doing the same thing over and over again. . . . Let the Corpses Tan comes as a great example of a reserved recommendation; it has all the tenets of a great film experience, but inspires none of the real passion to make it linger. Perhaps the perversity they seek needs a little less genre-savvy intelligence and a bit more idiot savant chutzpah.”

Updates, 9/16: For Variety’s Dennis Harvey, “this is a fetishistically precise recreation of a dead retro style, with no substance on the menu beyond the second-hand or accidental. Like a house made entirely of popsicle sticks, Cattet and Forzani’s movies are remarkable feats of dedication and detail, yet the nagging questions ‘What’s the function? What’s the point?’ will continue to divide viewers.”

“In keeping with their previous titles,” writes Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema, “Cattet and Forzani once more exemplify their affinity for wondrously edited frames courtesy of regular collaborator Bernard Beets and DP Manu Dacosse (Alleluia;Evolution), twisting and turning their visual approximations into a visceral extravaganza, of which the aural palette equals the bombastic enthusiasm of its images.”

“Practically an 85-minute demonstration of someone’s kink fetishes, Corpses may be for fans only, but if you can tune into its wavelength the effect is exhilarating,” writes Matt Lynch at In Review Online.

“Strain as hard you might, you won’t find any subversive subtext or deep thematic texture in Let the Corpses Tan,” writes the Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth, “and anything resembling poetry doesn’t go much further than the title. However, with nothing to focus on but delivering their crime story to the fullest extent of their talents, Cattet and Forzani create a gleeful hybrid of Jean-Luc Godard, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Sergio Leone in this off the wall neo-noir/neo-western hybrid.”

“The style eventually becomes overbearing and Cattet and Forzani bludgeon certain tactics straight into the ground, but for a while, it’s a dazzling ride,” finds Vikram Murthi. Also at RogerEbert.com, Brian Tallerico: “If this is your thing, if you loved their previous movies, don’t miss [this] one.”

Update, 9/17: “Add in some genuinely eye-popping Jodorowsky-esque psychedelic interludes and Hal Hartley regular Elina Löwensohn as the fatalest of femmes, and this is what a midnight movie is supposed to look like,” writes Rolling Stone’s David Fear.

Update, 9/21:Michael Sicinski finds that “there’s a subtle but crucial difference between Cattet and Forzani and other Eurotrash revivalists. Yes, it's possible to perceive the influences, but they are just that. The disreputable B pictures offer certain formal possibilities—jagged edits, dramatic wide angle cinematography, extreme close ups, and an expressionist use of color—that both commercial and art cinema never really explored any further. Corpses isn't an exercise in nostalgia so much as a rejoining in progress, an exploration of those largely untapped potentials.”

Update, 9/30: Kino Lorber has picked up North American rights, reports Variety’s Elsa Keslassy.

Update, 10/5: “About ten years ago I was working in a book shop when I discovered the reissue of an unabridged copy of Manchette,” Cattet tells Aurore Engelen at Cineuropa. “Let the Corpses Tan is his first novel. I immediately told Bruno: ‘Read it, it’s visual, it’s cinematic, it’s like it’s been made for us!’” Forzani adds: “The primary reference is the book. But we were also inspired by the new realists in terms of set design: Niky by St Phalle, Yves Klein, Tinguely.”

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