TIFF 2017 Review: Let The Corpses Tan is a Heist Film of Many Colors
Let The Corpses Tan is about Rhino and his gang, who have just robbed 250 Kilograms of gold from an armored truck. They are hiding out in the ruins of a hamlet where a female artist is living. She is there for inspiration while the crooks are there to plan how they are going to escape the country. Soon things go awry as unexpected guests show up, in addition to two police officers who are investigating the crime. Bullets fly and backs are stabbed as things come to a head in this French thriller.
When you hear the names Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani you know you’re in for a surreal and colorful good time. These two directors bring their unique style to the classic heist formula in Let The Corpses Tan and take the audience on an unpredictable ride. Much like they did in The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, they use color to represent a character’s feelings or the tone of the overall scene. Along with colors, they work in object association. For the artist, it is the cigars she smokes. For another character, it is his green ring that plays music. For the crooks, it is the guns. All of these associations are brilliantly set up at the beginning of the film. When only certain objects appear later, the audience can immediately fill in the blanks. Not only was the direction key to making this story fun but the cinematography was fantastic.
Early on in the film one of the painted canvases gets three bullet holes in it. The camera shot is set up so we can see the faces of each of the three principle players through one of the bullet holes. Another scene involves a simple conversation but rather than cutting between the two individuals, the view slides from one side of the table to the other. The camera gets closer with each slide until we see the mouths of the characters fill the frame. There are scenes where we see only the silhouette of people. Other scenes are lit with only one color, or no light at all, and are just sound. It was as if Cinematographer Manuel Dacosse was using his camera like a paint brush and the movie screen was his canvas.
Despite the surrealness of the film, the story is not hard to follow even though it jumps around in the timeline. Between many scenes, the audience is presented with a digital readout for the time the action is taking place. The visual clue helps the audience keep track of where that scene fits into real time. This is similar to the way Stephen Soderberg plays with the timeline in his heist films. The nonlinear nature of the storytelling makes the audience pay attention and adds a high-energy level to scenes that may have otherwise come off as uninteresting.
Let The Corpses Tan is a moving painting that takes the audience places they would not expect. There are humorous moments, dark moments, touching moments and WTF moments. Cattet and Forzani manage to make a metaphorically filled and super-stylized arthouse picture that is fun, original, and worth repeated viewings.