×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘Let the Corpses Tan’

Belgian duo Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani deliver another detailed homage to vintage genre tropes, this time 1970s Euro crime thrillers.

With:
Elina Lowensohn, Stephane Ferrara, Bernie Bonvoisin, Herve Sogne, Michelangelo Marchese, Marc Barbe, Pierre Nisse, Marine Sainsily, Dorilya Calmel, Aline Stevens, Dominique Troyes, Bamba.

The latest slavish homage to vintage exploitation genre tropes by Belgian duo Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, “Let the Corpses Tan” slightly expands one of the most rarefied bodies of work in recent cinema. This time the object of homage is (primarily) violent European crime thrillers of the 1970s, as opposed to the same era’s giallos, to which the co-directors’ “Amer” and “The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears” paid tribute. The shift in genre creates a comparatively more coherent narrative, with fidelity to the near-senseless horror plots no longer a requirement.

Otherwise this is a fetishistically precise recreation of a dead retro style, with no substance on the menu beyond the second-hand or accidental. Like a house made entirely of popsicle sticks, Cattet and Forzani’s movies are remarkable feats of dedication and detail, yet the nagging questions “What’s the function? What’s the point?” will continue to divide viewers. Commercial prospects remain marginal, but a particular echelon of cinephiles will again be highly enthused.

A near-ruined complex of hilltop structures in some dusty southland (presumably Spain) houses various self-professed exiles from society, including the imperious Luce (Elina Lowensohn), a middle-aged woman inclined toward provocatively scanty dress; alcoholic writer Bernier (Marc Barbe); Luce’s younger lawyer-lover (Michelangelo Marchese); and grizzled crime boss Rhino (Stephane Ferrara). Rhino and Luce are the apparent ringleaders in an armored truck’s deadly ambush that snipers and masked motorcyclists pull off not far away.

A haul of gold bricks swiftly lands at the complex, but even before its arrival, the master plan has drifted off course due to the unscheduled arrival of Bernier’s wife (Sorylia Calmel), son (Bamba) and maid (Marine Sainsily). Their appearances further complicate a domino effect of double- and triple-crossings that explode into a full-on shootout once two police officers (Herve Sogne, Dominique Troyes) trace the stolen loot to this forlorn site.

Cattet and Forzani’s thing is to take the most stylized aspects of vintage exploitation films, which usually simply punctuated or glossed their narratives, and turn those fillips into the film’s entire emphasis. Any stray excerpt of “Corpses” could be taken as evidence of a fascinating, eccentric lost obscurity, replete with all the outdated joys of its chosen era and genre references. They include solarized images, gratuitous nudity, giant Spaghetti Western-style closeups of glaring eyes, disorienting cross-cutting, gauzy flashbacks, surrealism, crude symbolism and so forth, all shot for maximum grainy nostalgia value in super-16mm.

As in most of the principally Italian crime melodramas that are the main inspiration here, greed is taken for granted as the most basic motivation in a nihilistic universe where the tenderest emotion expressed is usually vengeance. Glimpses from the murky past of a golddust-covered naked woman introduce a vaguely supernatural element that only grows more mysterious at the fadeout.

At various points here, it’s not entirely clear who is shooting at whom or why, but “Corpses” otherwise reps a step away from dream logic and toward a more conventional narrative for the writer-directors. Still, there’s a certain patience-testing confusion that kicks in quickly when viewers realize that once again the filmmakers are simply cramming in as many referential tropes as possible, with often striking contrast between individual sequences but little consideration for overall pacing, suspense or story arc (despite the fact that “Corpses” is actually based on a presumably coherent 1971 pulp novel). The performers embody physical archetypes rather than fleshed-out personalities, just as the meticulously realized visual and audio details add up more to a genre compendium than an organic whole.

It’s hard not to admire the filmmakers’ obsessive, singular mission, which is fully of a piece with their prior features and shorts. At the same time, it’s hard to experience much emotion (save eventual fatigue) from what plays like an endless compilation of idiosyncratic highlights from forgotten Euro B pics of an adventuresome period. Nonetheless, even if the rewards are limited, the technique is impeccable. That extends to a soundtrack mostly comprised of delicious archival tracks, many by the era’s screen composing king, Ennio Morricone himself.

Toronto Film Review: 'Let the Corpses Tan'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness), Sept. 9, 2017. Running time: 92 MIN. (Original title: "Laissez Bronzer les Cadavres.")

Production: (Belgium-France) An Ahoymes Films and Tobiha Film presentation. (International sales: BAC Films, Paris.) Producers: Eve Commenge, Francois Cognard. Co-producers: Doug Headline, David Claikens, Alex Verbaere, Philippe Logie.

Crew: Directors, writers: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani, based on the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid. Camera (color, super-16mm to HD): Manu Dacosse. Editor: Bernard Beets.

With: Elina Lowensohn, Stephane Ferrara, Bernie Bonvoisin, Herve Sogne, Michelangelo Marchese, Marc Barbe, Pierre Nisse, Marine Sainsily, Dorilya Calmel, Aline Stevens, Dominique Troyes, Bamba.

More Film

  • Picture Tree Adds ‘Cold Feet’ to

    Picture Tree Adds ‘Cold Feet’ to Berlin Market Lineup (EXCLUSIVE)

    Picture Tree Intl. has added German romantic comedy “Cold Feet” (Kalte Füsse) to its market lineup at the Berlin Film Festival, where the sales agent will screen the film as a market premiere. Sony Pictures released the pic, directed Wolfgang Groos, in Germany on Thursday, and it garnered 100,000 admissions over its opening weekend. “Cold [...]

  • Neil Burger

    'Upside' Director Neil Burger Sets Sci-Fi 'Voyagers' as Next Project

    “The Upside” director Neil Burger is set to direct sci-fi thriller “Voyagers” as his next project. The film will be fully financed and co-produced by Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios, and produced by Burger’s Nota Bene Productions and Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road Films. AGC also handles international sales on the new film. Written and directed by [...]

  • Berlin: M-Appeal Acquires Panorama Title ‘Greta’

    M-Appeal Acquires Berlin Panorama Title ‘Greta’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    M-Appeal has acquired world sales rights to “Greta,” the feature debut of Brazil’s Armando Praça which will world premiere in this year’s Berlinale Panorama section. The Berlin-based film industry has also dropped an international trailer, to which Variety has had exclusive access. Produced by Carnaval Filmes, whose credit include major titles by Marcelo Gomes, one [...]

  • Kew Media Boards Michael Jackson Documentary

    Kew Media Boards Michael Jackson Documentary 'Leaving Neverland' for International

    Kew Media Distribution has boarded controversial Michael Jackson sex-abuse documentary “Leaving Neverland” ahead of its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Kew Media has taken international distribution rights (excluding U.K. and U.S.) to the two-part documentary, which is a co-production of HBO and British broadcaster Channel 4. Directed by BAFTA-winner Dan Reed, “Leaving [...]

  • Nordic Film Market: New Pálmason, Hákonarson,

    Nordic Film Market Selects Latest Palmason, Hakonarson, Hafstrom, Ganslandt

    The 20th Nordic Film Market in Göteborg, unspooling Jan. 31-Feb 3, will showcase 16 works in progress including Hlynur Pálmason’s “A White, White Day”, Grímur Hákonarson’s “The County”, Mikael Håfström’s “The Perfect Patient” and Jesper Ganslandt’s “438 Days.” Iceland is well represented this year with top directors and festival darlings Pálmason (“Winter Brothers”), Hákonarson (“Rams”) [...]

  • 'All These Small Moments' Review

    Film Review: 'All These Small Moments'

    The magic of writer-director Melissa B. Miller Costanzo’s “All These Small Moments” can be found within the intimacy of the scenarios, the authenticity of her earnest characterizations, and the accessibility of the actors’ honest performances. In her deftly polished directorial debut, Costanzo dovetails the primary story about a teen’s coming of age with a secondary [...]

  • Bruce Tufeld Dead: Hollywood Agent and

    Hollywood Agent and Manager Bruce Tufeld Dies at 66

    Bruce Tufeld, a Hollywood agent and manager who once repped stars like Rob Lowe, Laura Dern, and Kelsey Grammer, died Tuesday in Los Angeles as a result of complications from liver cancer. He was 66. The son of respected television announcer Richard “Dick” Tufeld and Adrienne Tufeld, Bruce began his career as an assistant at ICM [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content