The concept is simple: a gang of criminals stay at the isolated hideaway of an eccentric artist and her lover after stealing 250 kilos of gold. Shenanigans ensue. And they ensue quite strangely.
This is a psychosexual surrealist film disguised as a spaghetti western. Many are judging this strictly in its capacity as a spaghetti western, claiming that the strange, surreal scenes were merely a waste of time. If anything, the opposite is true. The power dynamics, back-stabbing, and fights for survival are secondary to this film's main goal, which seems to be as follows: to show (as stylishly and creatively as possible) these characters' darkest impulses and fantasies. Very similar to their last work, The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani place equal importance upon what's going on in the "reality" of the film and what's going on inside the characters' heads. One character's overwhelming and confounding sexual fantasy might be given just as much dramatic weight and screen-time as another character shifting their allegiance or being killed, despite the fact that one of these scenes makes sense in the context of the plot and the other does not. This feels less like watching a spaghetti western than it does like watching a nightmarish wet dream of someone who had seen a spaghetti western the night before.
The nature of this film makes it difficult to give it a rating. The mish-mosh of high-brow and low-brow elements makes it very hard to compare to any other films. Yes, people always compare this directing duo to Argento, but their obsessive need to explore the subconscious fantasies of their characters is vastly different than any of Argento's work. Their films take place maybe 80% in the characters' heads whereas Argento's films usually take place firmly in reality (albeit, a strange, uniquely lit reality). All in all, I would give it an 8/10, and that rating is hard-earned through ingenuity alone. The characters can barely be called archetypes, there's no one to sympathize with, you barely know anything about any of the characters save for the most banal backstories, the plot isn't given much attention, and there seem to be major moments that are oddly glossed over. Instead of focusing on all these elements that would make a movie "good" in a traditional sense, Cattet and Forzani dive deep into a sexual dreamland of violence and fantasy and do so with constant and I mean CONSTANT creativity.
Almost every single scene is filmed in a way that feels enchantingly fresh. Since it pulls heavily from the spaghetti western genre (a genre that I adore, but has been done into the ground, then spoofed into the ground, then tributed into the ground), there are scene types that we've all watched a thousand times before. Predictable moments that you'd expect to be filmed in a cookie cutter fashion. Instead, each scene is treated like a feverish, experimental short film designed to get the general gist of plot details across, but, much more importantly, utterly enrapture its audience with shockingly gorgeous cinematography, mind-bending editing, and sound design that will have you weeping with joy, all to communicate a sense of otherworldly, darkly violent sexual tension. Admittedly, for every experimental scene that works, there's one that doesn't, but because of the sheer quantity of risks this film is willing to take, the missteps are more than forgivable. I found myself thinking of Hausu while watching it, another film where at one moment I would say to myself, "Why would they film it like this...?" and in the next, "I don't know. But I love it." This is the result of two filmmakers having unabashed fun with their medium and I personally found their subversive glee to be infectious. If you want to see a traditional, Oscar-ready thriller...avoid this one. But if you want to see a whacky fun-house of experimental style, go get your ticket now.