Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani, directors of “Let the Corpses Tan”

The filmmakers on sound, the subconscious, and playing tricks on the audience

Sep 25, 2017 Web Exclusive
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Let the Corpses Tan is an experience. It’s part spaghetti western, part surrealist mind-warping crime saga, part assaultive dreamscape. And it’s all sensory overload.

Directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears) made a film with the intention of making the audience feel every beat, even if their eyes were closed. To achieve this, the sound is often augmented, and the shots are often extreme close-ups.

“We want the film to have a physical impact on the audience, and the sound is one of the mediums that is perfect for that,” Forzani says. “The bass has an impact on the body because it touches the body. A combination of that kind of approach to sound with editing that is very sharp makes the overload.”

Every step is amplified alongside the stretching of leather and the echoing shots of gunfire. Every aspect of the film is large, creating a sense of closeness to the characters – a band of petty thugs who steal a stash of gold being transported in the countryside.

“It’s to be very intimate with the characters and to be submerged with the action,” Forzani says. “You are totally engaged with it because you are with the characters, but (also) very close to them. It’s part of our filming language – because you are totally with the character and in the character.”

As a result, the film is an in-your-face piece of storytelling. It’s brash and loud, but its violence is more implied than explicit even if the initial feeling suggests otherwise. This is not a blood-soaked thriller, though it’s not entirely absent, but the marriage of big sound and flash cuts may make Let the Corpses Tan seem more overtly brutal than it actually is. It’s something of a trick Cattet and Forzani are playing.

“The sound plays with the subconscious, you think it exists but it’s just a subconscious manipulation,” Forzani says. “Our last film was more extreme in violence…if you close your eyes it was more frightening with the eyes open. So the sound is very important for the subconscious, and the audience doesn’t always realize it. It’s very tiring to work with sound like this because it’s another kind of concentration.”

“It’s not only the sound,” Cattet adds, “because we are choosing all the cinematographic tools to have this sensorial effect. The editing is very important, too, for the association of the shots. So maybe you think you’ve seen something, but you haven’t because you’ve made some associations (through) editing. We try to play with the subconscious with everything.”

The directors are students of cinema, referencing the visceral sound present in Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo films and the visual and editing techniques in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream as analogs for their style in Let the Corpses Tan.

The duo adapted the 1971 novel of the same name by Jean-Patrick Machete and Jean-Pierre Bastid, and it evoked a specific stylistic response. But it also prompted new viewings of films by the likes of Sergio Leone, not for inspiration but to look for things to avoid.

“It’s not a pastiche or homage,” Forzani says, “but when we read the book it reminded us of an Italian western. And it was that kind of mood we wanted to have for the movie. But, we didn’t want to mock or redo what has been done before.”

The result is a film steeped in its influences while also turning them on their heads. It’s like taking giallo, spaghetti westerns, and old-school exploitation movies, putting them in a blender with LSD and seeing what happens. For Cattet and Forzani, the goal was to create something intimate and singular – their own variation on a common theme.

“We watch things to make sure we don’t do the same things. It’s the first time we had to do some gunfights. We wanted to avoid watching movies with guns because we wanted to try to do something more personal, or our approach to it,” Forzani says.



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