Venus in Furs (1969)

Director: Jess Franco

I’ve accrued a certain—some might call it ridiculous—amount of films lately by the late Jess Franco… indeed, no fewer than three this week, one (Nightmares Come at Night) I bought at a shop yesterday and two that arrived in the mail on Tuesday. Tonight’s viewing was one of the latter (the other was Sadomania, which I’ll get to in due course), which generally seems to considered one of the comparative high points of Franco’s chequered career, produced at a point when said career was really starting to heat up… The Blue Underground DVD has an interesting interview with the man, who makes the intriguing claim that he didn’t set out to make a “surrealistic” film, that he likes surrealism but he was going for a more realistic tone. That’s a fairly remarkable statement given the nature of the piece… it’s about a jazz trumpeter who pulls a body out of the surf on a beach in Istanbul, a young woman’s body; said young woman may have been at a party where he was playing, and he may have seen her being killed there. But then, after he relocates to Rio, she inexplicably reappears in his life, and in the lives of three other particular people… This scenario, as Franco says in the interview, actually grew out of a chat with jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, with the latter describing how the act of playing a solo inspired a sense of unreality and disconnection and feeling emotions and sensations inaccessible and unreal to other people; piss-all to do with the Sacher-Masoch book, whose title was forced upon the film by one of its many and varied co-financiers. Like I said, it’s interesting that Franco said he was aiming at a realistic style, cos the somewhat hazy and not-quite-real overall tone is what the film does best. It’s a bit vague, some things frankly don’t make much sense, and the ending will make you ponder as to its precise meaning, but I actually found myself rather enjoying it while admittedly being somewhat baffled…

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