Friday, January 15, 2010

Finding the key to Uncle Jess

There's a new member at Avmaniacs, Jan Zbik, a polish (and you know I have a soft spot for polish citizens) Francophiliac (someone who loves Jess Franco), and he mentioned that he's been in the cult-movie biz for a long time, but first a year ago found the key to Jess Franco. I liked that symbol, because a key is what you need to understand and love not only Franco, but most of your favorite directors. It can take time, and when you have that rusty/golden/new/old key in your hand and unlocks one movie, you finally understand those other movies from the past.

For me the key was A Virgin Among the Living Dead, Franco's 1973 masterpiece. I've seen other Franco-movies before that one of course, and some was great and some was not so great. He was just another director in a big wide world of eurocult. But with Virgin I understood that Franco means art, it means trash, it means passion. With trash I mean that sometime his work is sloppy. For Franco it seem to be more important to make a movie, make as many movies as possible, than just make one perfect movie. I'm with him on this, because making movies is a drug, it's magic. It's something you deep inside never wants to be without. Uncle Jess could make a few movies in a month, no perfectionism, but a lot of passion.

In Virgin there's parts that look very cheap, very trashy, very exploitative - but they intercuts with pure cinema poetry. There's a scene where one or two of the characters seem to float in the air, outside the house in the garden. That made it for me, and after that I saw that movie - and the rest of Franco's filmography - with completely new eyes. I never had a problem watching any of his movies after that, even those that he made just for simple survival. 

I also think that part of the Franco-Key was DVD. For the first time I could see clear, sharp, versions of his movies. Cinematography is very important in the stories he tells, because he's a much more visual director than a script-bound one. He can, like Welles and Hitchcock, tell a story only with the camera (just check out Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein), something very few directors can. But most important with Franco, he uses instinct when he makes movies. Not everything is logical at first, but often - when you've watched a certain amount of his movies - you'll get that key too.

So, what's your key? To Jess Franco, or to any director of your choice?



J said...


For me it was the old redemption release of Female Vampire. (think it was Redemption) That iconic shot of Romay walking seductively through the fog sbrought on the rush of insight that Franco wasn't all about quick fixes, but really an artist who wanted to say something. Now that you got me thinking of that film, I may have to buy that one on DVD.

Thanks dude.

dfordoom said...

For me it was Female Vampire as well. Art, trash, eroticism and horror, all in one package - what more could you want? And the eroticism is so unapologetic.

It's not quite my favourite Franco movie. I like Doriana Gray and Venus in Furs more. But it was the key, definitely.