(1969) dir. Jesus Franco
Before having just seen Vampyros lesbos (1971), I don’t know that I’d ever seen a Jesus Franco film before. With his cult following, I didn’t really know what to make of him, but Vampyros lesbos kind of impressed me with its moody surrealism. Not necessarily on the realm of high art, but an interesting mixture of exploitation in the trappings of some reaching artistic effort.
Venus in Furs is perhaps even more surrealistic. Its narrative fluctuates backwards and forwards from a discovery on a beach of a beautiful nude corpse, washed up from the sea. The woman is recognized by the jazz trumpeter who discovered her as a woman that he had seen getting raped and tortured in a way that he thought might have been consensual. Troubled by this event, he leaves Istanbul for Rio.
In Rio, the dead woman seems to have been reincarnated and he falls in love with her, driving him further along into a love much like a blissful madness. But the ghost or reincarnation seeks out the three who tortured and attacked her, wreaking revenge in each one’s strange, sexually-tinged deaths.
I was reminded a lot of David Lynch throughout the film, particularly of Lost Highway (1997) what with dualities and sex and death and experience of life completely conflated with itself to the point where reality is nearly non-existent. It’s nowhere as Lynchian as Lynch, but it echoes of him very much (I was having a hard time putting my finger on what was different about the two).
Meditative and noirish with its voice-over narration by the lost and enraptured trumpet player and filled with nudity and sex and violence, the film is a dream/nightmare. Franco also uses some simple but effective visual devices from slow motion to color filters to blurring devices that further twist the images away from any grounding in reality.
While not quite brilliant itself, the film is interesting, stronger than one might think. Erotica and surrealist noir. Man, the 1960’s were an interesting time.