[Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival] Let the Corpses Tan (2018) - Reviewed

Viewing a film by directing duo Helene Cattet and Brunao Forzani is akin to having a near death experience.  Their two previous features, Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears were ultra-Giallo homages, filled with kaleidoscopic imagery, potent sexual overtones, and unrelenting surreal nightmares.  Their third effort, Let the Corpses Tan is nothing short of a masterpiece, shifting their artistic focus to the gritty Italian crime thrillers and spaghetti westerns of the '70s.  Featuring otherworldly visuals, hyper-kinetic violence, and celestial semiotics sprinkled throughout, this is one of the most unforgettable cinematic experiences of the year.

A group of criminals steal a truck load of gold and look to hide from the authorities in a crumbling villa on the coast.  Things go awry when police officers track the thieves to the hideout, setting off a day long shoot-out between the thieves, the law, and the denizens of the manse.  Continuing the directors' absolutely insane techniques, Corpses eschews any sense of traditional storytelling in favor of a fully automatic presentation.  Preternatural editing by Bernard Beets is the foul engine that propels everything forward.  Characters come and go, bullets rip apart body and stone, and gods literally piss on everyone’s plans.  The script is based on a seminal Italian crime novel by the same name, however, outside of the initial setup, the action becomes delirious, derailing from any sense of cognitive storytelling.  This is the essence of life and death combat, where friends and foes are nearly indiscernible and the grim reaper patiently waits for his bounty at every turn.  The extended sequence is broken into spitfire chapters that are labelled with different timestamps as the torturous day progresses, as if to heighten the already frenetic situation. 

Manuel Dacosse's lurid cinematography is breathtaking.  The sun-washed exteriors of a fallen paradise are both lush and esoteric, featuring bizarre compositions of incandescent skeletal remains and items of possible occult provenance.  The interiors are forgotten cabinets of curiosities, filled with lost souls and pawn shop accoutrements.  The sun is also player, held in view during feverish hallucinations and profane invocations of deities of fate, as if to remind the viewer that destiny is a mere fable in the venomous reality of Cattet and Forzani's design.  This is pure art house bravura, brimming with perverted subtext and nonchalant philosophical rumination.  At its core, it is a simple affair, filled with odious criminals and Bohemian outcasts, and upon its conclusion, not much has changed other than the bodies lying in the sand.  

Coming soon to blu-ray from Kino Lorber, Let the Corpses Tan is a lewd triumph in a time where safe, predictable choices dominate mainstream cinema.  This is a film that will repulse many and this is part of its abrasive charm.  The wonder of this film is in how it explores the divine importance of events that would otherwise be relegated to a Walmart five-dollar bin.  Fate and even the gods themselves are always at play in Cattet and Forzani's strange and frightening universe and Let the Corpses Tan is their crown jewel.

-- Kyle Jonathan