Fantastic Fest 2017: LET THE CORPSES TAN is a Genre Fan’s Fantasy

Easily one of my most anticipated films of the year was Brussels-based writer-directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s newest film Let the Corpses Tan (Laissez bronzer les cadavres). Fantastic Fest regulars will recognize the pair from their visually stunning Neo Giallos Amer (2009) and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013). This time around, however, the pair are adapting a pulp French novel from the ‘70s and leaving the Giallo behind, tackling the Poliziotteschi infused with DNA of an Acid Western.

Let the Corpses Tan begins with a gorgeously stylized armored car robbery as a trio of criminals led by the charismatic Rhino (Stephane Ferrara) steals 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of gold. Hoping to lay low, the gang seeks refuge with an eccentric artist (Elina Lowensohn) in her secluded compound on the shore of the Mediterranean. It’s only a matter of hours before a pair of leather-clad cops show up looking for a woman who kidnapped her child, who is also at the compound looking for her estranged husband. After a gang member shoots one of the cops, it ignites not only the remaining cop’s fight for survival to protect his wounded partner, but the gang turning in on itself in an attempt double cross one another to get away with the gold.

The film has Helene and Bruno tackling an action film with the tools they’ve honed to near perfection in adapting the Giallo for a new generation. Their lush cinematography and vintage soundtrack choices here are surprisingly effective as they tell this story of betrayal and desperation. In keeping with their previous films, Corpses is light on dialog with the story primarily conveyed through its fetishized and surreal visuals, which were shot on 16mm. It’s a film that with its fractured timeline coupled with countless twists and turns makes it easy to succumb to this audio visual assault on the senses. The main narrative here also breaks for these almost Jodorowsky-esque interludes with a subplot involving a gold painted woman in a desert, which appears to be a supernatural force behind the events unfolding at the compound.

Let the Corpses Tan is a densely layered feast for the senses, filled with the couple’s trademark eroticism and violence. It’s a complex and compelling film that isn’t satisfied with simply being consumed in a single viewing and begs to be experienced again and again to dig deeper into the film’s overflowing myriad subtexts. With all these young filmmakers attempting to recreate these bygone genres, Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani have proven yet again to be the only filmmakers capable of not only just mimicking these styles, but also imbuing them with their own vision. Let the Corpses Tan is a frantic genre fan’s celluloid fantasy projected on screen that seduces as it overwhelms its audience.

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