Director of Photography Manu Dacosse, SBC, recently received the Magritte award for best cinematography on the movie Laissez bronzer les cadavres, by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. Adapted from the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid the film is a crossover between a western and Giallo, shot on film featuring colorful images and a very pop staging.
The Mediterranean, it is summer, a sea of azure, the sun … and 250 kilos of gold stolen by Rhino and his gang! They’ve found the ideal hideout: an abandoned village, cut off from everything, invested by an artist lacking inspiration. Alas, some surprise guests and two cops will thwart their plans: this heavenly place, once a theater of orgies and wild happenings, will turn into a real battlefield … ruthless and hallucinatory!
This is the third time you’ve worked with this directors duo …
Manu Dacosse: Working with Hélène and Bruno, it’s still a little like homecoming for me. It was with them that I made my first short film and my first feature film (Amer, 2009). Part of their pictorial references, very outspoken ever since the beginning, is obviously the look of the Italian cinema of the « Giallo » years ( Mario Bava and Dario Argento). For this third film they rather wanted to make a kind of sensual western. We talked about Kill Bill, for example: the sun is very present, with the sky and the sea downright dark blue … add the polarisers please! I believe that this obsession with the blue sea comes mainly from Bruno, who is from Menton and who pushes me each film to go even further down this path. I think this time we went very far!
How do they prepare their films?
MD: They spend several months before the shoot putting everything on paper. It’s very nice for me because the blocking, the framing, everything is already indicated precisely, with an almost preconceived editing of each scene. I have, so to speak, only to realise the images they have in their heads and the very precise movements, like the widescreen shots of faces, which give certain scenes this western feel.
And in terms of lighting ? The visuals are large part of their narrative
MD: They do not have any specific requests in terms of lighting. They give me ideas of the mood they envision for each part of the film. Full sun, interior night with campfire, gray and dark sky, gray night with rain … This is where I try to translate the look of the film from the page to the screen. For example, there is this whole scene done in a very blue day for night in the last part of the film. In this case I rely mostly on color to set the mood for the scene. I must admit that I’m not a fan of very blue nights, but I also like to go in directions that I would not favour naturally. The funny thing about this couple of filmmakers is that Bruno tries to always go for denser images while Helen likes temper his requests and sometimes asks me to add a little light here and there!
How did you find the main location, which marks very strongly the visual sense of the film?
MD: They took advantage of the two years while the project was in financing to scout the locations for the film. Sicily and Spain were once considered, but in the end it was in Corsica, a place somewhere between Calvi and Île-Rousse (near the village of Lumio), that was chosen. A group of houses in ruins and completely isolated, without an acces by road other than driving a dirt track thirty minutes from the main road. Personally, I thought it was a bit « too much » during my first visit to the site in March. Notably because of the problem of transporting equipment. So we ended up flying stuff in with a helicopter and partially reconstructed one of the houses due to reasons of a possible collapse. The film was shot in June, but we still had some difficulty to shoot the many shots where the sun is a character together with the other actors. As the sun’s course changed drastically in hight between the tech recce and filming, extreme low angle shots were needed to compensate for it.