Sunday, September 2, 2018

Panos Cosmatos' "Mandy" and Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani's "Let the Corpses Tan" at The Grand Illusion & SIFF Cinema: Sept 14 - 20

The Grand Illusion Cinema hosts a one week run of the most recent offering “Let the Corpses Tan”, from genre cinema duo Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani. The husband and wife directors appeared on the international scene with their 2009 debut feature "Amer", seemingly fully-formed with their fusion of Eastern Bloc experimental film of the 60s, British psychedelic and occult film of the 70s, and a strong underpinning of the mechanisms of Italian Giallo. Returning four years later with “The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears”, their second feature establishing a even more assertive neo-Giallo style. More than simply an exercise in genre pastiche, they overwhelming the narrative with vibrant cinematography, taught editing, memorable locations and a finely sculpted aural environment. The duo took the influences of the classic films they loved and shaped them into a heightened, erotic, tension-filled form of their own. Critics have weighed in on the film's insistence of style over content, and almost excruciating complexity in it's editing and construct, but for fans of the genre there's a lot to advocate it's maceration of the senses, "The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears Will Break Your Brain". Premiering last year in the lineup of Locarno, and cited as a highlight of the festival, the duo returned with another deep genre exercise “Let the Corpses Tan”. Inspired by “Corpses in the Sun”, a 1971 novel by the French writers Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid, the director duo have wrestled the Spaghetti Western into their all-inclusive Giallo recipe. Concurrently making their first foray into crime movies, the film is a visually rich abstract of Eurocrime, sun-baked Mediterranean landscapes that invoke the western, and stylistic hooks including extreme close-ups and juxtapositions lifted from Sergio Leon, and the French New Wave. A lurid bloodbath custom made for the cinephile, their work operates on more levels than just homage. As explored in their interview with Cinema-Scope, "Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani: Giving Credibility to the Universe", these genre deconstructions make apparent their influences, and rather than burying the source of their wellspring, the warping and stretching of technique and material watches as a celebration of its influence and lineage.

Cattet & Forzani are not alone in this work inspired by genre film and 20th Century cult cinema of decades past. A new tide of contemporary work has risen concurrently with the rich veins bring mined both in genre film soundtracks, and restorations and reissues of the films themselves. Reissue imprints like, Death Waltz, Mondo and WaxWork, have unearthed rare and esoteric soundtracks, bringing them new life often in correspondence with restorations and theatrical re-release thanks to institutions like the American Genre Film Archive, Arrow Films and Scream Factory. With these, there are whole new genres being born of the thematic beds of atmosphere and constructed worlds of Italian Giallo, French Fantastique and British Psychedelic, Pagan and Folk Horror of the late 1960s and 70s. As well as the following  American horror explosion of the late 1970s and 80s. It is the latter that North American recreations like the work of Panos Cosmatos has drawn most directly from. His 2010 directorial debut, "Beyond the Black Rainbow", much in the way of Cattet & Forzani, received high praise for it's re-creationist style and vision. The movie's painstaking pre-digital universe is given form by being shot on 35mm, with effects work entirely in-camera via airtight use of sets, makeup, lighting, matte work and other practical effects of the era in which it is both set, and evokes. In these, "Analogue Dreams: Beyond the Black Rainbow" willfully supplies evidence of Cosmatos' influences and inspiration. The film pilfers equally from the stylebooks of Stanley Kubrick, David Cronenberg, Michael Anderson's "Logan's Run", early Douglas Trumbull, and Kenneth Anger in it's assemble of a late-70s, early 1980s analog vision. So meticulously assembled and executed, "Beyond the Black Rainbow", exists outside the parameters of the fetishization seen in lesser contemporary emulator films. By taking his pages this time from contemporaries, most notably those of Gaspar Noe and Nicolas Winding Refn, as much as past genre work, Cosmatos has upped the ante with his sophomore effort, "Mandy". Concocting a wedding of these forms with a unhinged genre vehicle overflowing with gloriously lurid cinematography, and a lead actor's penchant for bombast, "'Mandy' has Nicolas Cage Wreak Revenge at the Fiery Gates of Hell". Ratcheting up the visceral engagement to such heights, and Jóhann Jóhannsson's pounding, sensory-fraying collaborative score with Stephen O'Malley and Randall Dunn, "Cosmatos’s Mock-1980s Oddball Nerd Fantasy Yarn" deftly circumnavigates the trappings of similar postmodern genre territory.