Review: 'Let The Corpses Tan', Sex And Violence Explode In A Kamikaze Western Shoot 'em Up

"Don't you appreciate a little gunfire before breakfast?"

There isn't just gunfire before breakfast, but at lunch, dinner, and in-between meals in Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's deliriously stylish shoot 'em up, Let the Corpses Tan. A Western unlike any other you're likely to see or hear, sensory overload hits you within the first few minutes and never really lets up as the directors splash the screen in vibrant colors and break-neck camera angles, style pouring out of every frame. Only the barest contours of a plot take shape but that's not what is clearly at interest here, rather to throw the viewer into a kamikaze cinematic experience that defies simple labels.

It's virtually impossible to tell exactly what's going on here, except that everybody seems to hate everyone else and people start dying. There's also a satchel full of stolen gold bars, an apparent angel of death who occasionally pees on people, a bored writer named Bernier (Marc Barbé) and his Tilda Swinton-esque muse Madam Luce (Elina Löwensohn), and lot of gunfire. Set somewhere out in the Mediterranean, Luce's paradise home becomes a gang hideout when the bullish Rhino (Stéphane Ferrara) and his cohorts crash there after pulling off a violent gold heist. Also unexpectedly showing up to the party are Bernier's wife and kids, a timid lawyer Luce is involved with, and eventually a pair of motorcycle cops (Hervé Sogne and Dominique Troyes) who don't understand the Hell they've just rode into.

Sex and violence dance together devilishly; the eerily sensual silhouette of a woman's body (women are harbingers of doom and pleasure, naturally) is often the last thing seen before the snap-bang of a trigger pull, followed by the ugly splash of blood (or in some cases, rainbow colors) on the stony ground. Cattet and Forzani show little interest in any kind of strict narrative structure, despite this being their first work adapted from another's source material. The amorphous results are largely the same as their earlier giallo-inspired films, Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears. And yet this is also their most mainstream effort yet, although that should be seen as purely relative. I personally found their previous efforts to be so abstract as to be unwatchable, but Let the Corpses Tan hits you with so many indelible images right off the bat you can't help but be gripped by it. While the characters are barely sketched out, you quickly find yourself wanting to know who survives this cinematic orgy of violence and deviant behavior.

A flurry of betrayals, double-crosses, and shifting allegiances make it nearly impossible to know who is on whose side. You often won't figure out what's going on until somebody ends up on the wrong end of a gun barrel. A Rashomon style is employed to clue us in on multiple perspectives but it only makes things more confusing, as does a ridiculous timestamp that frequently breaks up the action. The hallucinatory effect created by Cattet and Forzani is all part of the package, and they clearly  want nothing more than to take you on an eyeball-searing trip. As an exercise in style vs. substance, it's clear what side Let the Corpses Tan falls on. You can admire or even love it for what it sets out and accomplishes, rather than burying it like a corpse for what it doesn't.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5