I’m a really big fan of Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears. Let The Corpses Tan follows up on their close-up obsession; their menacing, sexual mood; and their willingness to bend film language for style.
Ostensibly a western (of the spaghetti variety) combined with some of Bava’s particulars (the black gloves here have now moved from Giallo to something like his ’70s entries ala Rabid Dogs) Corpses is a film that must be watched in the cinemas. The 2.35 aspect ratio, originating on 16mm is gorgeous. The soundtrack is both loud and intimate (Cattet and Forzani make me think of Claire Denis in that way – those tight close-ups have so much aural texture).
Like with their previous work, maybe it helps if you’ve got some film history knowledge before watching Let The Corpses Tan. Maybe. I’m not really sure. I’d be curious to hear how the film plays to someone who doesn’t see references littered about but just experiences it as present cinema. But it is clear that the film isn’t only reference. Cattet and Forzani get a great performance from Elina Löwensohn as Luce, and the film could be a perfect companion piece with Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts for its gender genre revisionism.
Pororoca (Popescu, 2017)
This is a good film to go into blind (so, if you want to, stop reading this now). I didn’t even know the genre and, though it’s Romanian, there are plenty of disparate examples coming out of that country recently.
Pororoca is intense. A 2.5 hour runtime is often too long for my tastes, but the film really needs it. I think it’s a good example of patient cinema – time passing is important and rewarded.
What a great performance from Bogdan Dumitrache as Tudor. He not only undergoes a significant physical transformation, but he also believably touches on any conceivable emotion over the course of the film. An early scene where he walks with his daughter is so breezy, simple, and natural. Compare that with the last scene – what an arc (credit to writer/director Constantin Popescu’s script, too).
There’s something to be said about a cinema of observation. In a critical scene, and a location that we return to more than once, Popescu puts his camera at a distance (I think there’s an apt comparison with the final shot of Cache) in a park. It’s hard to tell at first if it’s a POV or not. It’s also difficult to discern where we should be looking. A lot of those compositional values and methods of eye trace are thrown out the window. Instead, we just look. Maybe it’s a boring shot while it’s happening. I mean, it’s a wide where dialogue ducks in and out, and to my memory holds for as long as a few minutes. But it’s justified in the events that follow – we want to go back to that shot and watch again to see what we can see, but of course it’s too late (just like it is for Tudor). It’s a gamble, and I bet that Popescu loses some of his audience around there, but if you stick around the gamble really pays off.
If Let The Corpses Tan could be a good double-feature with Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts, then I think Pororoca would make a good 2018 double-feature with You Were Never Really Here. They’re actually such different films, but where Ramsay wants to compress our experience, Popescu wants to expand it. They both make for really visceral viewing experiences, and both leads embody a similar weightiness in characters with rather different back stories.