I am fascinated by simple things: watching a 'feelgood' movie makes you feel good, and the opposite. Yet, this simple process has the most astounding mechanism, which props up every single aspect of waking life. You pick your friends this way, dream, suffer and love this wayall intuitively, without much conscious thought.
Now turn to this film. Franco is sort of a gamble for me. He works so fast, that when cameras start rolling the thing is basically half-formed and taking shape as you watch. This is nice. I don't mean to make any excuses for what the films clearly lack, but it's an interesting way to make films, more loose than usual; what some of the best filmmakers attempt, trying to sneak up to who is really watching. It's a living experience if you can stay lucid. (by contrast to someone like Kubrick or Nolan who puts the vision first, deftly maps everything ahead of time so it reaches you lifeless)
So for me, the gamble is squeezing past the sloppy overall vision faster than you can reason. This is staying lucid, by which I mean let yourself be neither numbed nor swayed by the sex or violence; in this or any film. If you don't squeeze past fast enough, you'll be stuck behind a wall of finding faults, not a fun place to be. If you do, Franco can reward you because that is the level where he starts to be intuitively interesting; the idea is to be already on the inside when he starts tethering images. Sometimes when you get there, it's just empty fabric, but sometimes not.
The point is that he does have this semiconscious level, which is not conscious thought and most filmmakers utterly miss. This film reaches that level better than any of the rest I've seen.
The main premise is a woman unsure of herself and reality. All sorts of stratagems point to that; the opening scene is in a dungeon where she has a couple tied up and playfully tortures them with a knife, this would be the typical Franco film you are geared to expect but we soon find it's a staged scene, pointing at fabrication. Back home, she performs a striptease for her man but he's bored and rolls to sleep. The next scene is where, dismayed, she walks out as if in a dream and wanders to a seaside castle, where apparently she has a life and child. More. She suffers from amnesia, and later she pops with others in a party what looks like acid tabs.
This is all loosening up reality so we can get to the interesting stuff, simple entry points.
So the film is where the woman wanders around in a narrative haze of folded time, not unusual for Franco. But there's more than languid air here. Franco namedrops Godard at one point, I was reminded more of Resnais and later Raoul Ruiz. (also influenced by Resnais)
Men approach her claiming to know her (we presume sexually), but she can't remember. Won't?
All sorts of hypnotic images intrude in her story, usually of men who pressingly ask questions about art and pop culturea Godardian 'loan'. Her man assumes the role of Mickey Spillane (potboiler and film noir detective) and slaps and interrogates her as if she's a noir dame holding out on him. At the party, the host reads up from a book about the woman as temptress and succubus who seduces, leads astray and drains men. All this reinforces a sense of sexual guilt and suffocation.
Superficially, it's about the woman's journey through masculine perceptions of her, boring if you think of it in the Catholic context which the conscious mind of Franco was probably addressing. Superficially, this is presented to us as 'brainwashing' by her man. Bo- ring.
What's powerful about this, is wondering a bit about who or what is tethering images into a story. This is beyond conscious control of images, up to you to ponder.
From the inside of her dream, you can't separate inside from outside, images simply bubble up in some order. These images are all her own dream, gradually they take the form of violent urges, being in that story gradually she feels more impure. What is causing this to happen? What starts out as her own reverie, is it slowly polluted by these other perceptions?
Surely making out with the young girl is her own genuine urge to be apart from men, interrupted by the compulsive desire to kill. Or is it? Is it something her man would fantasize about, who she wants to please? Is she becoming the character imagined of her? Is the self fetching the images or the other way around, the images gradually acquire a self?
This right here is the level where Franco is intuitively interesting. It is that semi-abstract space of story not tainted by logical mind, involuntary memory. If you have to see only a single Franco film, make it this or Eugenie De Sade.
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