Let the Corpses Tan (2017), the third feature by Belgian duo Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, is the perfect example of a midnight movie – it’s bloody, stylish and eccentric. And it puts a new spin on a classic pulp story. Even though most of the time one might not understand the characters’ motivations and may find it difficult to follow the plot, this frenzied film will certainly never bore you.
Influenced by Spaghetti Westerns, Cattet and Forzani deliberately create pastiche, detailed and comprehensive yet undoubtedly auteurist. They pay homage to the genre by borrowing its plots and stylistic elements while also deconstructing cinema language to its purest and most thrilling form for cinema that communicates through visual expression rather than words.
In the hierarchy of Let the Corpses Tan, the narrative is clearly a second string, although there’s a lot going on. A gang of thieves steals 250 kilos of gold and plan to hide their treasure in a deserted village near the Mediterranean sea where a bohemian artist lives with her lover, who is caught in a love triangle. Unfortunately, a few unexpected guests mess things up, two police officers arrive and a crazy shootout begins. Although the plot, which is based on a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid, might sound familiar, there’s no shame in admitting that trying to understand who is who in this messy story can be quite difficult.
It’s obvious that the directors want us to feel lost or at least confused, which is why the puzzling plot is overshadowed by visual expression that is even more chaotic. It wouldn’t be too much to say that Let the Corpses Tan uses almost all cinematic techniques one could think of: close-ups, zoom-ins, flashbacks, fast cutting, cross cutting, and more. While some of the stylistic elements clearly quote the genre (for example, the repetitive close-ups of the eyes look very Western-like), the vibrant, busy visuals together with peculiarly detailed sound design first and foremost bombard viewers’ senses, creating a cinematic experience as intense and sometimes – let’s be honest – as garish as possible.
However, it’s not only the hyper-stylization that makes Let the Corpses Tan so powerful – the images created by the directors and cinematographer Manuel Dacosse play an equally important part. The most visually striking scene of the film reinterprets religious iconography. Here a naked woman, covered in golden dust, is crucified and whipped by men. She is still in charge, we are sure about that (after all, she is a goddess of some sort), yet she serves as a prisoner of lust. As in their most famous film Amer (2009), the directors combine sexual desire and violence, pleasure and death, and provoke their viewers’ impulses in a rather unconventional way.
Some might argue that Let the Corpses Tan is a cold genre experiment and not a film with heart and soul. And they might be right. But if it’s an experiment, it’s an exciting and bold one. With impressive ammunition of cinematic tools and barely any dialogue, the directors manage not only to recreate the atmosphere of long-forgotten European B movies, but also to remind us how daring today’s cinema can be.
FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Monika Gimbutaitė, LithuaniaMonika Gimbutaitė, born in 1993 in Lithuania, graduated from Vilnius Academy of Arts, Art Theory and History programme. For three and a half years she held the position of a programme coordinator at European Film Forum Scanorama. She is currently working as culture journalist for 15min.lt, the second biggest news website in Lithuania.
Alexander Gabelia, GeorgiaGeorgian film journalist and activist. He's a political refugee from Abkhazia. Alexander studied history of cinema and Cinematography at Ilia State University. He writes about cinema and culture in various prints and online outlets including LIBERALI.GE, AHA.GE and he’s a cinema reviewer for on-line magazine – www.magnettemag.com. He’s been also involved into Tbilisi International Film Festival and Cinedoc Tblisi.Arman Fatić, BosniaArman Fatić is Bosnian film critic/journalist currently based in Maribor, Slovenia where he is studying philosophy at Faculty of Arts Maribor. He is a writer for several websites/magazines across balkans some of which are ziher.hr, snl.ba and pulse.rs. His main fields of interest as a film critic are society problems in general and philosophical/religious symbolism in movies.
Jakub Wanat, PolandFilm-lover, cinema-goer, festival-fanatic. Both cinema and writing are my biggest passions, so I decided to combine them, which basically means I killed two birds with one stone. It all started with MAGIEL, Poland's biggest students' magazine, where for almost two years I was the head of the film column. I was chosen as a Polish representative in the Venice Days jury at the 2017 Venice Film Festival. I'm also the LUX prize ambassador and a proud member of the Scope100 project. I had a chance to write for Cineuropa, naEkranie and regularly for my blog. I'm studying both e-business and film studies, also having some time to work at a Polish start-up.
Mikhail Morkin, RussiaMoscow-based film journalist. He is a chief editor and critic for Kinomania.ru. His work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter Russia, RussoRosso and Film Sense. He also worked as programmer assistant at 2morrow Film Festival. Born in Moscow in 1991, he holds a specialist’s degree in Linguistics from MSPU and is currently studying for master’s degree in Transmedia Production from HSE.
Mina Stanikic, Serbia24 year old film and theatre critic based in Novi Sad, Serbia. Although finishing medicine studies, she took up career as a cultural journalist, starting in Kultur!Kokoška, a culture-dedicated web magazine, slowly becoming focused on film and theatre criticism. Her articles have been published in various cultural magazines, mostly in Serbian language. Mina is alumna of 11th Talents Sarajevo, where she took part in Talent Press program, writing and publishing in English. In film criticism, she has particular interest in debut films, and the following transition from short to feature filmmaking. Mina works as a PR for the Film Front, International short film festival in Novi Sad, Serbia.
Romanita Alexeev, MoldovaRomanița’s relationship with the film world isn’t limited to her fascination for it. It also extends to her fascination with other people’s fascination for it. She has started her journey in this industry by studying film production and acting at the University of Salford, United Kingdom. Later on, she returned to her home-country, Moldova, where, at the present moment, is directing and an online/tv series about Moldovan film industry.