Jess Franco & Luis Bunuel
This Guest Blog by Michael Hinerman looks at fascinating parallels between the careers of two famous, and controversial, Spanish filmmakers:
Prolific Spanish film director Jess Franco is usually derided as a hack, while his Surrealist compatriot Luis Bunuel is lauded as a master. But there are interesting parallels between the two men and their work. Both men collaborated with the extraordinary screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, and both were condemned by the Catholic Church as “the most dangerous filmmakers in the world”. More strikingly, both Bunuel and Franco were among the first filmmakers to explore the themes and adapt the works of the Divine Marquis, Donatien Alphonse François, the Marquis de Sade; Bunuel in his scandalous L’AGE d’OR (1930), and Franco beginning with JUSTINE and EUGENIE (both 1969), and continuing through numerous productions throughout his long career.
Beyond the obvious exploitive appeal of sex and violence, always good for scandal and box office, both Franco and Bunuel recognized that De Sade, far from being merely the sadistic and logorrheic monster of popular imagination, was perhaps the most important philosopher of the French Enlightenment after Rousseau. In fact, De Sade’s entire body of work is a conscious and ferocious critique of Rousseau, precisely laying out in relentless and sickening detail the logical end result of worshipping Nature’s God, the God of the Philosophers, who would eventually supplant in the West the ancient God of Abraham.
While the ultimate cinematic dramatization of this theme is to be found in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s abject and despairing masterpiece, SALO, Bunuel’s and Franco’s pioneering and, in Franco’s case, sadly neglected explorations are essential viewing.
By Michael Hinerman