Let The Corpses Tan: An Indelible Throwback Western
French filmmaking duo (and also husband and wife) Bruno Forzani & Hélène Cattet (Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears) break away from the giallo roots of their previous features to deliver Let the Corpses Tan, a sleek and stylish western that is saucy enough to cover Sergio Leone's spaghetti style and acidic enough to satisfy Alejandro Jodorowsky's psychedelic palette.
The film is based on the novel Laissez bronzer les cadavres by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid, and the story involves a gang of thieves who obtain 250 kg of stolen gold who are hiding out at the home of an artist who is caught in a love triangle with a writer. When two motorcycle cops show up at the artist's home, the scenario quickly escalates into a day long gun fight between police and robbers that quickly spirals out of control, complicating things and putting allegiances to the test.
Watching Let the Corpses Tan is a mesmerizing delight of indelible style and artistry that blasted me directly back into the past; the look and feel of its visuals and compositions completely harks back to the glorious grit of 70s Italian crime thrillers, spaghetti westerns, and arty grindhouse films. Adorned with psychedelic arthouse flourishes and a chic Parisian shine (a la nouvelle vogue), Let the Corpses Tan is a tsunami wave of style and and technique that washes over the viewer in fresh and exciting ways.
Narratively, the film takes a fairly simplistic western/heist premise and stretches it out to the point of breaking, filling the void of its lack of genuine progress with breathtaking images and sequences that assault the senses. At times, I found that it was a bit difficult to keep track of what exactly was unfolding story-wise, but the presentation was so hypnotic and enticing that I wasn't ever really bothered by this — I just wanted more and more of the film's style and oddity.
The story is framed over the course of one day and uses repeated callouts to specific timestamps throughout the day relative to a particular action, such as a gunshot. Forzani & Cattet use this framing device to break up the narrative into smaller chunks and to jump around to the different perspectives of the characters involved in the shootout, which they sometimes do with surprisingly crisp and comedic effectiveness. The jumping around in perspective gives the viewer no real protagonist, and it reinforces the film's fatalistic theme.
Throughout the film, fate takes several forms and frequently appears in trippy, psychedelic Kafka breaks. Whether it be a skull, a shadowed female form pissing on the heads of men buried in sand, or the very Wild Bunch-esque usage of ants, one gets the sense that this standoff isn't going to fare well with any of those involved. These sequences add volumes to the atmosphere, and contain truly unforgettable images that serve to pull the viewer deeper under its trance.
The cinematography by Manuel Dacosse is breathtaking and full of rich colors. Even when the film becomes drenched in darkness, Dacosse finds new ways to highlight the characters with novel shades style. The direction and fluid and the editing is snappy and sharp, always keeping the pacing chugging along. The sound design is also of particular note, and relies heavily on the rustling of wind, the deafening blasts of gunshots, and the crunch and creak of leather.
If you're fond of 70s spaghetti westerns, grindhouse grit, or psychedelic cinema, look no further than Let the Corpses Tan. It's a potent love letter to the style of these genres, and it's a B movie made on an A+ level. If you have the opportunity to see this one, don't let it pass you by; you may be surprised with what it has to offer.
Rating: 4.5 skulls outta 5.
What do you think? Was Let the Corpses Tan a solid flashback to 70s era film? Did its style work for you? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!