Described in the program as a “giallo in its purest form” (a genre with which I can’t pretend extreme familiarity), Let the Corpses Tan, a film out of Belgium from directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, is basically shot as if the entire thing lives in the gun fight from The Good The Bad and the Ugly — dramatic close-ups, epic music, stylized sex and violence. It’s the kind of tits n’ splatter film that will juxtapose a squint, a gun hilt, a bead of sweat, bookended by gunshots and punctuated with gore. It certainly makes an impression. The gunshots sounded like they clocked in at about 130 decibels during my screening, to the point that I actually stuffed napkins in my ears during the title credits.
Gleefully crafted and full of memorable shots, it was easy to understand why the festival programmer who introduced it said he “jumped out of [his] seat and ran around” upon seeing one scene. I’m guessing that scene was either the one where the naked lady pees on a guy’s head, or the one where she lactates champagne. Fantastic Fest basically exists to show movies like Let the Corpses Tan.
The basic plot concerns a gang that’s stolen some gold bars from an armored car and are hiding out in a mountaintop fort by the sea. Two motorcycle cops have followed them to their lair, complicating the getaway. A naked lady, a lawyer, and two girls with a young boy also get caught up in this, somehow, and most of the film consists of the ensuing gunfight and shifting loyalties. That… well, that was about all I could decipher of the plot.
Let the Corpses Tan feels a bit like a music video that wants to be a movie, when maybe it should just be a music video. It works on a stylistic level (except for the gross close-ups of people eating, I don’t know why these movies always think it’s clever to shoot match shots between food and gore as if it’s meaningful symbolism), but seems as if it’s attempting to work on a narrative level, when it doesn’t, not quite.
Which is to say, I plain couldn’t tell what was happening, at a basic level. It was hard to tell who was peeing and who was being peed on, to say nothing of why (which, admittedly, is much less important). Characters would discuss other characters as if the details were of great import, and I could never quite establish who was who, and then there’d be loud gunfire, louder music, and some kind of flashback that was maybe a dream sequence.
I’m sure I would’ve figured it out if I’d better followed the clues. Maybe I was too tired for it. There’s nothing like a movie constructed almost entirely of extreme close-ups to make you appreciate the utility of an establishing shot. And so it looked and sounded great, a sexy homage that’s thoroughly cool, but in a way that’s maybe meant to wash over you, to provide background imagery. Perhaps it’s not the kind of film to be digested and discussed on the way out of a theater. We’ll always have the peeing lady though.