When a violent armed gang plans a heist in sunny Southern France and lifts 250 kilograms of gold, they seem to have found the perfect hideout—an abandoned hilltop hamlet occupied by a self-styled abstract artist and her rag-tag group of guests. But when a couple of cops come a-knockin’, the place stars a-rockin’, as a brutal and relentless shootout and Mexican standoff ensues, with paranoia taking over and allies become enemies . . . while the womanly spectre of debauched days gone by watches and guides the carnage.
Exploitation cinema is back with a vengeance! After two decades of Hollywood hotshots like messrs Tarantino and Rodriguez easing in mainstream audiences with their stylish homages, and indie filmmakers keeping the tradition alive mostly through horror, the French filmmaking duo of Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani combine their experience of modern ‘Giallo’ and horror with a cornucopia of ultra-violence and a good old fashioned Mexican standoff—capturing the dark crimson heart of a cult cinematic style and taking it to a new stylistic level.
Elina Löwensohn(Schindler’s List, Nadja) stars as ‘Madame Luce’, an abstract artist who rejects society and detests authority, and whose latest group of disparate guests at her remote ruined coastal hamlet includes seedy lawyer ‘Brisorgueil’ (Michelangelo Marchese), her former lover and washed-up alcoholic writer ‘Bernier’ (Marc Barbé), and a trio of dangerous bandits led by the cold and calculating ‘Rhino’ (Stéphane Ferrara)—looking for a place to lay low after their latest heist. Enter two nosy bike cops to spoil the party and turn their sun-kissed refuge into a blood-soaked battleground, where bullets fly and small depraved minds are blown.
‘Let the Corpses Tan’ is easily one of the most faithful re-creations of a period style in recent memory. Every frame makes it look like you’re watching a late 60s or early 70s exploitation film, thereby remaining utterly faithful (in terms of the era anyway) to the 1971 Jean-Pierre Bastid and Jean-Patrick Manchette novel ‘Laissez bronzer les cadavres!’ on which it’s based, with meticulous care given to costume and production design as well as the shooting style and cinematography by Manuel Dacosse(The ABCs of Death, Electric Indigo).
The fingerprints of exploitation and cult cinema are all over this film, from Giallos to European horror, and most of all the Spaghetti Western. The tense uncomfortable atmosphere, menacing archetypal characters often covered in shadow and blinded by sun, and the endless tight close-ups of every conceivable body part—but particularly the eyes—will all be familiar to fans of early Sergio Leone and his successors. And the directors complete the homage by using countless Ennio Morricone compositions, to great dramatic effect, as well as a soundtrack of psychedelic tracks to compliment the more trippy moments in the film.
By opting to give the story a vivid B-movie and exploitation film treatment, rather than more a traditional crime drama or thriller execution, Cattet and Forzani give themselves the scope to use the sex and ultra-violence as a canvas for some bizarre but stunning pieces of sometimes topical but often abstract visual art. Making this easily the most gruesomely stylish standoff film you’ll likely to experience, and rivalling almost anything you’ve seen from the heyday of the exploitation era.
If you have delicate sensibilities, aren’t au fait with exploitation cinema or just aren’t a fan, then ‘Let the Corpses Tan’ is probably one to avoid. It’s loud (both sonically and visually), lurid and unapologetically indecent, and you’ll probably struggle to find any real depth—although there’s something to be said for its blend of violent nihilism and psychedelic metaphysical reckoning.
For us though, this modern cinematic anomaly is a mesmerizingly insane and gloriously perverse piece of filmmaking which takes the pure essence of exploitation film and adds unseen levels of artistry, plenty of moxie and bags of Franco-Belgian cool. ‘Let the Corpses Tan’ is the cinematic equivalent of digging up a time capsule and finding the contents in better condition than when they went in . . . only you’re ‘tripping balls’ when you do it.
The Bottom Line…
Unapologetically violent and lurid, soaked in blood and sweat, and riddled with bullets, ‘Let the Corpses Tan’ is the epitome of acquired taste cinema, resurrecting exploitation film in its purest form and taking it to new levels of morbid artistry. A tense and unrelenting visual spectacle built on the bones of genre cinema and on the back of cult filmmakers—it may be an overwhelming or unbearable experience for some, but make sure you feast your eyes on the macabre mayhem cause they don’t make ’em like this anymore . . . which is probably a good thing.
‘Let the Corpses Tan’ is out on the 18th of October 2017 in France, with no UK date yet.