Guest Review: VENUS IN FURS
Thanks to Michael Blanton for allowing us to reprint his recent review of this Jess Franco classic. Let’s hope it gets a Blu-ray release asap.
This review may contain spoilers.
“A guy like me without a horn is like… well, a man without words.”
Certainly, one of Franco’s most surreal, trippy, dream-like films, even more so with its dissolves, montages, filters, zooms, super-impositions, slow-mo, heat-wave distorted cinematography, Venus in Furs (1969) is the story of Jimmy (James Darren), a jazz trumpeter – and also the narrator of the film, done with a hipster patter – who discovers the half-nude body of a dead, tortured woman, washed up on an Istanbul beach, whom he realizes he has seen before. Jogging his memory, he realizes that her name was Wanda Reed (Maria Rohm) and he had witnessed her – in between sets at a jazz club – being whipped by a woman, Olga (Margaret Lee) as two men Ahmed (Klaus Kinski) and Kapp (Dennis Price) looked on. Disturbed by the events, the nonplussed Jimmy heads to Rio, via stock footage of Carnival, with his girlfriend, and singer, Rita (Barbara McNair). To his utter amazement, Wanda also shows up in Rio, at the jazz club where he and Rita are performing. Unable to control himself, Jimmy embarks on a torrid affair with Wanda and does nothing to hide it from Rita, and he heads back to Istanbul at the insistence of Wanda, who unbeknownst to Jimmy, has had an agenda of her own which commenced as soon as she arrived in Rio and will continue once they return to Istanbul. Filled with supernatural moments, Venus in Furs is chock full of ambiguities and dead-ends, with an ending that will throw you for a loop. Look for Franco, playing trombone in one of Jimmy’s combos and piano in another. Franco regular Paul Muller -uncredited – also has a significant role as an impresario of a jazz club. Fans of Kumel’s Daughters of Darkness, Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad, the films of Robbe-Grillet and David Lynch’s films since Lost Highway should find much to engage them in one of Franco’s best films.