I have made a grave error in my life up to this point. I never saw Amer or The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, the two previous films from Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. Something about the reputation of these movies made me assume they’d be pretentious slogs, and I, you know, watched Scott Adkins movies instead.
It’s possible that when I finally right this wrong, I still may agree with my initial impression. But I find that unlikely now that I’ve seen Let the Corpses Tan, one of the most exciting cinematic experiences I’ve had in quite some time.
It will be difficult to express in words what makes Let the Corpses Tan so special, so as an aid, have a look at this trailer for the film:
Let the Corpses Tan is a beautiful, experimental and bold take on a rather classic pulp crime story. A group of folks, three of them murderous criminals who just robbed an armed truck, all get locked into a deadly shootout that lasts throughout one long, crazy night. It tells this story through bizarre montages, trips to symbolically related sidebars, curious uses of chronology and perspective, and then straight up compelling action filmmaking. Boiled down to a blurb, it’s like Alejandro Jodorowsky directed Free Fire.
I’m not kidding about that Jodorowsky comparison, either. Watching the film made me recall my first viewing of The Holy Mountain, hypnotized by the sheer inventiveness and strangeness of what Jodorowsky had captured, a buffet of images so out there I couldn’t look away for fear of missing yet another thing I’d never witnessed before.
I felt the same way during Let the Corpses Tan, so much so that looking down to eat my food or pay my check filled me with resentment for what I might miss in that half second. The film never rests. Each shot, edit and bit of sound design has an artistic purpose. Not once does the film simply rest on “well, here’s just a shot of two people talking”. Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani pursue active cinema at all times, and it's a joy, even when events are ugly and horrific.
While I was mesmerized (and now write this rather hyperbolic review), it should be said that Let the Corpses Tan is not for everyone. Even by Fantastic Fest standards, this is a wild one, overflowing with opportunities for viewers to roll their eyes at what may come across as audacity for its own sake. Some may even call it boring, though I don’t sympathize with that critique as much given all the incredible gunplay and violence at hand.
But for me, this is now a very big film, one I will see many more times both to relive the more beautiful moments and also to pick up on the chronological idiosyncrasies at play. I simply love this film and feel so lucky I got to see it as big and loud (very very loud) as it was intended.