EL FRANCONOMICON / I'M IN A JESS FRANCO STATE OF MIND

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NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT

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maxresdefaultLES CAUCHEMARS NAISSENT LA NUIT, 1970, LIECHTENSTEIN

Zagreb, Yugoslavia: Every night Anne (Diana Lorys) performs an extremely bizarre slow-motion strip tease at a sleazy nightclub. She is watched by Cynthia (Collete Jack) who ensnares the vulnerable dancer into a world of deception, crime, madness and death.

A Zero budget crime-noir with an onieric atmosphere which at times recalls the subject matter and imagery of such avant garde classics as Cocteau’s BLOOD OF A POET and Bunuel L’AGE D’OR, possibly best defined by Sigmund Freud as “the imaginary gratification of subconscious wishes.” On the surface it’s a sexy/gritty crime film which also functions as an almost ontological study of Anne, a case history as told by a Jim Thompson or a William Irish. According to OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, the director claims this was his lowest budgeted film as of 1973*. It really looks down and dirty, but that look only cements its feel of an erotic fever-dream involving seduction, mind control and murder. Mirrors, mirrors within mirrors, birds, knives and jewels play a large role in the nightmare scenarios which drive Anne to madness and self destruction. The minimalist strip club sequences consist of little more than a couch, a statue, a featured boa, and the narcotic presence of Lorys. This is all the mise en scene necessary for Franco to create a soulfully sleazy reverie where Anne’s painfully slow execution of erotic poses hold her audience while Nicolai’s humid sax atmospheres illustrates Anne’s melancholy narration. Lorys gives a terrific, body and soul baring performance as the anxiety ridden victim, and Paul Muller delivers another one of his subtle turns as her ambiguous psychiatrist,a villain with a conscience. It’s really their show and Franco closely observes their tormented interaction while ever so slowly moving in for the final kill.

Lorys’ final epiphany for the lost souls of the world, which she delivers in her “Princess of Istria” persona in front of a full-length mirror, is one of her, and Franco’s, finest moments. It’s the polar opposite of Soledad Miranda’s** self absorbed dances, also performed in front of a large mirror, in VAMPYROS LESBOS. Anne’s performance here is the result of selfless suffering which transcends self pity whereas Miranda’s female vampire is transported into a realm of narcissistic self stimulation. From its rapid fire credit sequence to its knockout double twist ending this is an absolute must for both Franco enthusiasts and those needing proof positive that a poverty row budget can act as a creative stimulus. Josiane Gibert voices Lorys and her soulful, pleading tone floods each and every moment of this film with a mood of deep melancholy.

Bruno Nicolai’s mercurial, dissonant score fits the film like a glove, constantly shifting between the music of dark dreams and the jarring sounds of deceptive realities. Suddently phasing from lyrical interludes to startling piano chords and guitar meanderings, strip club jazz to sitar interludes, rich organ riffs and outre lounge cues which will make you want to get up and dance the dance of the damned. A once lost item in the annals of Euro-bis, LES CAUCHEMARS NAISSENT LA NUIT is a voluptuously nasty suite of surprises. Remember: “Life is all shit.” Robert Monell

*VAMPIRELLA No. 13, Interview with Jess Franco
**Soledad Miranda appears in a small role her along with her future costar from EUGENIE DE SADE and VAMPYROS LESBOS (both 1970, Andres Monales/Andre Montcall. They play two associate members of the jewel robbery gang, headed by Paul Muller. All the scenes with Miranda appear to have been shot during a separate shooting period than the bulk of the film, Aug-Sept. 1969, perhaps just before the January 1970 production of EUGENIE DE SADE in Berlin. If one looks closely at the area around the house-for-sale in which they are hiding out, it appears to be late fall-early winter while the scenes involving the lead players are flooded with sunlight and foliage.

Written by Robert Monell

24 julio 2017 a 11:52 PM

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