Based on the 1971 French novel of the same name by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid, Belgian filmmakers Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's Let The Corpses Tan is, like their earlier efforts Amer and The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears, a throwback of sorts. Where their earlier films were heavily influenced by the Italian giallo cycle, this latest picture feels more like Bava's Rabid Dogs by way of Jess Franco and Fernando Arrabal.
The story, on the surface at least, is deceptively simple. A burnt-out writer named Bernier (Marc Barbe) spends his time in an ancient and decaying home on the peak of a hill near the Mediterranean Ocean. He seems to spend most of his time with, Luce (Elina Lowensohn), creating art and just sort of existing.
Elsewhere, a criminal named Rhino (Stephane Ferrara) and his two accomplices steal two-hundred-and-fifty kilos of gold bullion leaving a trail of dead guards in their wake. On their way to hideout, they pickup Bernier's wife (Dorylia Calmel) and son (Bamba Forzani Ndiaye) and his accompanying nanny (Marine Sainsily) when they come across them stranded on the road. They all wind up at Bernier's place and, once a couple of leather clad motorcycle cops (Hervé Sogne and French adult film icon Marilyn Jess, who is credited in the film as Dominique Troyes) show up, it hits the fan over the next twenty-four hours or so.
Cattet and Forzani aren't going for subtlety here. Ants crawling across an aerial photo of Bernier's home serve as an obvious metaphor for the action that occurs while recurring shots of a naked woman, her face obscured, lets loose various bodily fluids in a series of elaborately staged and genuinely striking cut away scenes. The film pulls from a lot of ‘euro cult' influences. Not just Bava's crime classic and some of Jess Franco's pictures but from ‘Panic Movement' films like Viva La Muerte and various spaghetti westerns maybe Giulio Questi's surrealist Django Kill!... If You Live, Shoot! most of all. The movie even goes so far as to recycle a few recognizable Ennio Morricone and Nico Fidenco soundtrack bits, to really help nail down that late sixties/early seventies vibe that the movie is so clearly going for.
If the plot is simple on the surface, the way that all of this plays out is not. A frequent series of title card inserts showing the time in a bold red font against a jet black background helps us to keep the narrative straight but the movie uses whiplash edits and a bombardment of strange, though artistically satisfying, images to keep us wondering just what exactly is really going on here. The production values are impressive. The cinematography and the music are fantastic while the editing uses quick, rhythmic cuts to keep the pacing quick. If, by the end, it's all a little much it's still a lot of fun getting there.
Performances are strong. The cast use body language more than anything else, there isn't a whole lot of dialogue in the film. Stephane Ferrara makes for an imposing figure, very well-cast as the heavy in the picture. Marc Barbe is quite decent in a role that is the closest to what the film has to a traditional lead or hero. Elina Lowensohn gives a performance that is as striking as it is bold.
Clearly not a film for all tastes and a picture not in the least bit concerned with mainstream appeal, Let The Corpses Tan will nevertheless satisfy those with a taste for genre fare or outré arthouse filmmaking.
Let The Corpses Tan comes to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber in a 2.35.1 widescreen transfer in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. This is a very striking looking film and the transfer here definitely does it justice. Some of the darker scenes are a little on the noisy side but otherwise, the digitally lensed feature looks gorgeous on this disc. Colors pop in ways you never expect them to and black levels are generally quite strong. There are no issues with any noticeable compression artifacts or edge enhancement issues to complain about while skin tones look natural enough, at least when they're supposed to. Sometimes contrast is intentionally hot looking, clearly part of the film's intended design, but detail, depth and texture are all very strong here. No complains… the movie looks gorgeous on Blu-ray.
The French language DTS-HD 5.1 is also very good. There's a lot of very effective channel separation here. Any time a bullet flies it'll zip past you, while the music is spread out really nicely as well, enveloping you as the story plays out. At the same time, dialogue stays clean and clear, usually up in the front of the mix but occasionally well-placed in the rear channels depending on the scene. As you'd expect from such a recent film, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note and the levels are balanced properly throughout. Optional subtitles are provided in English only and a French DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is also included, but if you've got the hardware for it the 5.1 mix is the one to go for.
The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and John Edmond that is more of an appreciation of the film than a dissection of it. They spend a lot of time discussing the visuals, which is understandable, and talk about interacting with the filmmakers who were willing to explain some of the visual choices they made for the picture. This could have used more background info on the movie and the people that made it, it doesn't go as in-depth there as you might hope it would be, but they pair definitely have a good time watching the movie and you have to appreciate just how into they are.
The disc also includes a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.
Let The Corpses Tan is a wonderfully strange throwback, mixing spaghetti western and poliziotteschi influences in equal measure all set to a fantastic soundtrack and some jawdroppingly cool visuals. Yeah, it's style over substance, but it's so easy to get happily lost in the visuals that you don't mind so much. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray disc is light on extras but it does look and sound excellent. Recommended.