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Review: LET THE CORPSES TAN (2017)

Who will get away?

Who will escape Death?

There are allegories and motifs aplenty for the brilliant, bejewelled LET THE CORPSES TAN. Based loosely on the book “Corpses in the Sun” by Jean-Pierre Bastid and Jean-Patrick M Manchette, it has a starting point as far as the plot goes. Getting to know what they are is the challenge. The colourful opening sequence is a real stunner, letting us get comfy and bite into the story a little bit before revealing the last title. The real work is determining if all that flash is just flash-in-the-pan. Is it just a gold heist movie that ends in a shoot-out gone wrong, or does the spaghetti-western-styled LET THE CORPSES TAN have more to tell us? Given that this is from writer/directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (AMER, THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS) the answer may not be obvious.

What really made the movie for me was the visual component, which was amazing, even while the story fell to pieces at the end. The movie evokes colourful giallo elements, and is awe-inspiring in its visual element. The make-up, the costumes, the sun-baked, coastal French setting, the colourful camerawork, are all stunning and nothing short of spectacular. The blood and gore effects were great, too, all felt authentic. It truly was a beautiful film, from start to finish.

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Getting to know the characters and their names was almost the most challenging part of LET THE CORPSES TAN for me. And for me to learn someone’s name before they are quickly mowed down was unfortunate. There’s the kooky artist lady, Madame Luce (Elina Löwensohn, SCHINDLER’S LIST, DARK WATER), who presumably lives on the property. There’s the bank robbers, whom she probably met that morning, the lawyer who fell in with the bank robber types, the dreamy writer Max Bernier (Marc Barbé), the spurned wife of the writer Bernier, her son, and the wife’s maid.

While I surmised at some point that all the characters had at some point had various brushes with Death, which is who I guessed the silhouetted lady was, arriving at that idea was half the battle. I enjoyed the effects of seeing a truly sinister performance by an actor playing Death, and towards the last act of the movie, she stepped out of the flashbacks and into the main carnage. I determined this was Death wanting her dues, finally.

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And sometimes language is a barrier to good storytelling. Some parts of LET THE CORPSES TAN were beautiful and unabashedly French, but I wonder if, for the people who felt disconnected from the LET THE CORPSES TAN story, would have gotten more out of it and developed more meaningful connections with the characters if it had been in English. There’s no reason for this movie to not be in French. Indeed, brilliant movies get made every year in non-English-speaking countries.

However, I did feel as though more exposition should have gone into the story, as well as more character development, before the writers axed many of the characters. And this was the result of shoddy writing, not the language. If you approached it from the perspective of, this movie is an ode to grindhouse films from the 1970s, it doesn’t need character and plot development, I would say that a movie could still contain elements of a grindhouse film and not have a bad script.

While the visual spectacle and splendour cannot detract from the bad script, LET THE CORPSES TAN is a cinematic feast for all the senses. If you can forgo bad storytelling and are just there for the grindhouse gore and shoot-em-up, it’s definitely something you can’t miss watching once. And if, like a friend of mine who called it “a challenging watch”, movie-goers don’t find it a punishing watch, it’s probably something worth watching twice, just to determine if the plot speaks to them.

LET THE CORPSES TAN is available on VOD from Kino Lorber.

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