Moving away from the febrile world of 1970s Italian horror to that decade’s Euro crime dramas, Belgium-based duo Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani have crafted yet another deliriously frenetic, blood-soaked homage to cult cinema of yesteryear.
Working from a pulp fiction novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid, Let the Corpses Tan drops the audience into a viper’s nest situation, with a band of thieves facing off against local cops in the mountains. They’re also double-crossing each other, just to make matters even more perilous and toxic. If Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears were games of hide and seek, Cattet and Forzani’s third feature has the violence and brute energy of a rugby match. Reteaming again with renowned cinematographer Manu Dacosse and shooting in super grainy 16mm, the pair’s surrealist principles and nerve-shredding use of montage has crossed over from their previous work, as well as the S&M imagery.
What’s different is the energy provided from swapping genres. Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears were films exploring the masochist’s delirious state of mind and their slightly unhinged point of view, whereas Let the Corpses Tan is the mistress in a foul mood, cracking the whip a little bit harder, tightening the ropes that little bit tighter. Late on in the film, there’s a moment in which a mystery woman brutally sticks a stiletto heel down a guy’s throat. Elsewhere, there is kinky imagery involving golden showers and a woman tied up to a stake in the sweltering sun, her sweat transforms into what looks like champagne, it drips and squirts out of every pore. While none of this will ever connect to a mainstream audience, Cattet and Forzani are the heirs to Tarantino’s brand of fetish cinema, obsessed with recreating the types of movies once deemed total trash or nothing more than genre filler.
It’s arguable these younger European imitators triumph over American Tarantino, as what they do is more aesthetically interesting, their impeccable craft and perverse daring is streets ahead of QT’s penchant for stunt casting, non-chronological storytelling (which is still easy to follow) and use of chapter headings. Cattet and Forzani attempt to craft synaesthetic experiences for the viewer, and while they might not have the same impact on culture, Amer, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears and now Let the Corpses Tan are unforgettable powerhouse cinematic experiences. If you dig what they do, you’ll fall head over heels for their movies. Set almost entirely outdoors in a Mediterranean locale, the whole film is a riot of rapid editing, Sergio Leone shots, nihilistic energy, outré images, gorgeous back-lighting cinematography and occasional bursts of dreamy primary colours.
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Martyn Conterio | @Cinemartyn