This past Friday, Kino Lorber released Let the Corpses Tan, the latest movie from the filmmaking team of Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (Amer, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears) in New York and Los Angeles, and this week, their tribute to ’70s Italian crime cinema expands to theaters across the US, bringing together an eclectic gaggle of characters in a bullet-riddled ballet drenched in sun, sweat, and hallucinatory visions. Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with both Forzani and Cattet about their decision to turn the Let the Corpses Tan novel (written by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid) into a cinematic experience, their approach to this story, the immense difficulties of finding their filming location, and more.

Congrats on the film, you guys. What was it about the story in the original book that felt right to you about translating it for film?

Hélène Cattet: First, it was me who read the book, and when I read the book, I could see that it was cinematographically written. It was like a movie. And I told Bruno, “It's amazing. Read this book,” because I'm really interested in adapting it, because I liked how it felt like a western, but also like a Poliziotteschi, the Italian crime movies of the ’70s. All of those moods are in this book.

Bruno Forzani: At first, I was a bit afraid because it was very different from what we've made before. It was more labyrinthine, it was more straightforward, and it was, to me, far from our universe. But Hélène said, ‘No, it’s so close we can really do something with this.’ And when we began to work on the script, we found some things that drew us in. One of the biggest draws was the character of Luce, who is a secondary character in the book, who allowed us to make the violence like a performance and to have a new approach to gunfights in this movie. We decided to focus on her.

As you mentioned, this is something very different than what we've seen from you guys, yet so much about it feels like it’s right in your wheelhouse, because there's this intricate narrative, but there's also this really beautiful visual iconography throughout the movie. The way you guys were able to blend it together works incredibly well here, especially because of the editing. It really services the story as well. I know editing is important in any movie, but it feels crucial to this movie in particular.

Bruno Forzani: We were always thinking about the editing when we were writing the script, and when we were doing the storyboards. That’s how we know exactly what will be in the editing process.

Hélène Cattet: Because we are always playing around a lot with the association of ideas and things like that.

Bruno Forzani: For us, the film is a sentence and each shot is a word of this sentence and we know that this word will be the second one, the third one, etc. In fact, when we arrived for editing, we just put the puzzle back into place, because we shoot in very deconstructed way. We don't shoot chronologically. So, it was this puzzle from shot number one to shot number 1048, and we worked with the editor on the rhythm and what we tried to do with this movie is something very unique. The film becomes like a fever, where we are trying to reach that place of orgasm through the editing process.

You mentioned spaghetti westerns and Poliziotteschi films, and so much of Let the Corpses Tan feels like this beautiful marriage between both, but it also feels so unique to your filmmaking sensibilities. How conscientious was it for you both to make something that felt wholly different than the films that inspired this story?

Bruno Forzani: When we did the movie, we knew that it would have an Italian western mood, but we didn’t watch Italian westerns to make it, because we didn't want to reproduce anything. We had memories about these movies as we had watched them some time ago—about their vision, about values of landscape, about values of closeups, about their music—and we wanted to tell the story of the book Let the Corpses Tan through that mood. The only thing we did was to watch the duels at the end of some Sergio Leone movies, but not the whole movies, because we didn't want to make a Sergio Leone-like movie. He's the master, and he has done it so perfectly that it’s nonsense to try and reproduce that at all.

We wanted to go for something more like the short film we made for The ABCs of Death, “O is for Orgasm,” and we’ve had some feedback where people picked up on that mood, which was very nice feedback to receive.

You're working with a very large cast here with a lot of moving parts, and you found this brilliant way to set up these characters without over-delivering dialogue, which can sometimes trip up other films. There's so much that we know about these characters just through the visual clues that you provide us with, both in the flashbacks and as the current story unfolds. For example, Luce [Elina Löwensohn] carries every scene that she's in and just becomes a force of nature, and the lines she delivers feel so deliberate, especially in that breakfast scene, where we first see most of these characters interacting with each other.

Bruno Forzani: That was one of the main challenges of this movie. Because in the book, there are a lot of characters and the challenge was how were we going to give flesh to these characters. In the films we’ve made before, they were mostly based around just a few characters, so we can go deep into them. But here, when you have five, six, or even seven characters in a sequence, we try to focus on what character we want to develop in that moment, not just shoot a wide shot with all the characters in it. So, in terms of the breakfast sequence, for us the two main characters for the sequence were Rhino [Stéphane Ferrara] and Luce. It was the first confrontation between the two of them and it’s the beginning of this idea that Luce is attracted by Rhino, so we erased all the other characters, and we concentrated just on the strained relationship between the two of them.

Hélène Cattet: We prefer a sensorial way to describe characters and not a didactic way, and that's why we don't want to tell the story by didactic dialogue. For us, when there is dialogue, it’s like sound. We like dialogue because of the accent of the character or how it complements the music and not because of their meaning in telling the story in the right way. We just want to tell the story via cinematographic tools and not by didactic scenes. That's maybe why we have an appreciation for sensorial narratives.

Before we go, I wanted to discuss the location that you guys used here, because it ends up almost becoming a character in itself. You utilize it metaphorically and literally throughout this entire film. How integral was it to find this location in particular and being able to set the stage for everything that happens in Let the Corpses Tan?

Hélène Cattet: It was really difficult to find this location. In fact, if we weren’t able to find a good location, we weren’t going to do the movie because it’s the first character of the movie. We needed a place that can withstand all this action for an hour and a half, so if we can't find it, there's no movie. This was one of the first locations we visited, but it was very difficult. It's a very complex place, because it’s up in the hills and there's no road, and we were telling ourselves that it was too complicated to use. But it was so beautiful, and all the other locations we saw just weren’t as strong, so we realized we needed to find a solution.

The solution was to just bring all the materials by helicopter for the first day of shooting, and then the helicopter brought back all the materials at the end of the shoot. It was a challenge because all the crew, and the actors had to climb the mountain every day for half an hour just to get to the location. In a way, it was like having to conquer the natural elements just to make this film, which was a good thing.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.