Let The Corpses Tan (Laissez Bronzer Les Cadavres) (2017)

Let The Corpses Tan first published by Sight & Sound, in a preview piece on the Cult strand from the London Film Festival 2017  

The searing sun. A shot is heard. A bullet shell falls. Extreme close-ups on three faces. A gun is aimed. A man says, “I never miss, is this what you want?”  A woman replies, “Do it, fire at will.” Shot tight and cut up impressionistically, this opening suggests a Mexican standoff in a spaghetti western – but the bullets, it transpires, are being fired into a paint-splattered canvas. The artist is Madame Luce (Elina Löwensohn), a decadent bohemian living in an abandoned hamlet on the Mediterranean coast and happy to accommodate rough, tough Rhino (Stéphane Ferrara) and his equally hypermasculine friends just so long as they keep her interest aroused.

In fact these men plan to use the village as a hideout after violently stealing a crate of gold bullion. When two leather-clad motorcycle cops (Hervé Sogne, Dominique Troyes) show up, the shooting starts in earnest. Luce, a sensualist who harbours sadomasochistic fantasies about more than one kind of golden shower, will play off all sides against one another to see who is the last (wo)man standing – like the re-gendered antihero of an oater from Sergio Corbucci or Giulio Questi.

Also turning gunplay to high art are filmmaking couple Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (Amer, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears), as they deploy canted angles, violent jump cuts, Bava-esque colour schemes, fetishistic dream sequences, recycled scores and mannerist in-camera trickery to disorient the viewer and to revitalise their source material (Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid’s 1971 novel Laisser bronzer les cadavres). Under Luce’s (and Cattet’s) errant gaze, men with guns are eroticised, much as the typically masculine cinematic forms that they inhabit (the western, Euro-crime) are uniquely feminised. With these orgasmic shootouts putting the fuck into clusterfuck, perverse desires transmute low genre into pure gold, yielding my favourite film from a very strong Cult strand.

© Anton Bitel