Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Succubus (1968)

I won't even begin trying to tell you about the storyline of Succubus, because it's virtually impossible. There is an outline for something - a nightclub, a producer (Jack Taylor) of nightclub acts, a beautiful woman (Janine Reynaud) who can't see the difference between reality and fantasy, and that's about it. Succubus is so far the most surreal and abstract Jess Franco movie I have seen, somewhere between Bunuel and Jodorowsky and his own work. The story goes from scene to scene, with odd dialogue taking us further and further into a very hallucinogen saga.

But Franco stands with his two feet very steady in the pop culture he always embraced and there's constant talk about authors, filmmakers and musicians. The idea of movies being outmoded even before they are released is interesting, but on the other side - like one character talks about - when we experience the movie it feels modern again, up-to-date if we want it so. In a dream-sequence (or is the whole movie a dream?) several horror characters is referenced, including Godzilla, which is a fun detail for a Kaiju-fan like me.

This is a chance for Franco to discuss in the form of a movie everything he likes. From movies to music (Succubus is of course filled with jazz) and not being forced to into telling an ordinary story. I would call Succubus experimental pop-art with a high dose of improvisation. According to Uncle Jess there was never a proper script and he wrote the scenes the night before every shoot to make it feel fresh and original. Some stuff is genius and some stuff - like the stereotypical symbolic (for what? I have no idea!) dwarf and dancing transvestite is less fresh - but as a whole Succubus is a minor masterpiece in surreal cinema.

The actors is the highlights, from the stunningly beautiful and charismatic Janine Reynaud to the cool and handsome Jack Taylor (without moustache) in his first movie for Franco. Howard Vernon, always brilliant, has a small role as an admiral who sits by a bar where a nude male bartender is making him a drink (must have been a dream for Vernon!) until he's stabbed to death in the eye and surrounded by crying old women in a weird funeral rite.

I'm not sure how to interpret Succubus, and I'm not sure if that's really necessary. It's not made to analyze and dissect, it's made to experience and probably smoke a lot of weed while watching. Succubus is a highly original piece of work from Franco, not for the beginner - but don't leave it to last either. It's a movie to breath and feel while you still have that fantastic groovy sixties feeling inside you.

Love live Franco! 


Anonymous said...

Cool....see Black Moon (1975)then an see if you can interpret that one....personally I was looking for an answer but couldn´t find one....talking unicorns and all!!!

Hans A. said...

I've never been able to interpret this film, either. I've always seen it as Franco's love letter to Janine Reynaud.

I love these Pop-Art films, like Weekend or Robbe-Grillet or something.

Succubus is one of my favorite Franco's. Great review.