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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Intense erotic psycho-drama - SPOILERS AHEAD!

9/10
Author: Armando Mariani from Mexico
2 March 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is an aesthetically well conceived psycho-drama, which seems built around his own (well chosen) musical sound-track (Franz Liszt romantic Concertos and Franco's own synthesized scores). Images and music combined, create a fascinating erotic atmosphere. "Sinfonia Erotica" (Erotic Symphony) is a most appropriate title for this movie. I consider it one of Franco's most ambitious and best crafted works in spite of being an "only-few-thousand-bucks-budget-production". The movie has a captivating languid pace, with slow, sudden unpredictable circling camera movements and shots from unorthodox angles. The lens cuts thru the shadows, showing mainly details of faces, bodies and objects, often reflected in mirrors. The setting is a large villa, surrounded by luscious vegetation and sunny bodies of water. The camera leads us, following the action, through rooms and corridors, whose darkness is broken by the flickering light of candles and oil-lamps, shown in close-up and out-of-focus. Distant voices, moaning, echoes and other eerie sound-effects, effectively contribute creating a morbid and hallucinated atmosphere of sensuality and corruption. The story is about Countess Martine De Bressac (sultry Lina Romay), her mental illness, her sensual obsession and her very "Sadean" relationship to her husband. She feels irresistible lust driven love for him. In return she gets rejection, psychological abuse and humiliation. Armand had engaged earlier in a relationship with an ambiguous teenager named Fiore, and completely neglects his marital duties, which drives Martine over the edge of mental sanity. During her recurring sex-abstinence triggered violent crises, she wildly caresses her body, trying in vane to quench her sexual desire. One night, she sexually assaults Norma, a young novice (beautiful Susan Hemingway). Earlier in the movie, Norma had been found wounded at the entrance of the villa and immediately "adopted" by Armand, who turned her into his favorite "pleasure-toy", to provide a touch of extra spice, during his encounters with Fiore. In a later twist of the story however, Norma and Fiore fall in love and are planning to run away. This triggers the vengeance of Armand. He discovers them making passionate love and, in a sudden burst of rage, runs his sword thru their naked bodies joined (at this point forever) in the act of love. Martine lives secluded within the boundaries of the villa, in a semi-catatonic mental state, her eyes gazing through the window towards imaginary spaces. She spends time only in the company of her lady-friend Wanda, who warns her about the criminal plans of Armand and will pay with death her loyalty to her mistress and, sometimes, briefly with her mysterious Doctor who, however, seems "playing on both sides of the fence". Martine appears not able to communicate with the real world. In her mind she hears the loving words exchanged with her husband at the beginning of their marriage. She only becomes alive during her continuously frustrated attempts to make love to Armand. She keeps getting rejected and forced back to a borderline mental state, where reality and fantasy are deeply interconnected. Relentlessly she keeps offering herself to him and finally, one night, he violently possesses her. At one point, close to the peak of pleasure, she gasps, collapses and dies or, at least so it appears. Here we get the most baffling conclusion of the story! Armand plunges into a remorseful state of despair for having killed Fiore. In spite of having reached his objective (getting rid of his wife to get free access to all her wealth), he is a broken man. One night, suddenly Martine appears like a ghost in front of him, with a deadly sword in her hand. Did she came back from death or did she faked it? She is vengeful and determined to finally settle the scores. Armand is in shock, he can't take it anymore and begs her in tears, to put and end to his misery. She runs the sword thru his throat and...Justice is delivered! In the closing sequence we see Martine with her shady Doctor, who urges her, now that "their plan has been accomplished", to forget the whole sad story and start together a new life. Does this mean that Martine was not the "victim" but really the architect of a complex plot, to turn her husband into the "actual victim"? De Sade often mixes-up the roles of "victim" and "executioner" and the "victim" has to fall to the lowest annihilation level and "die" in order to "resurrect". Or was the whole story just the product of Martine's schizophrenic fantasy? Or perhaps a dream? This is a complex, multi-layered movie, recommendable to mature and open-minded viewers and to Franco fans. The depiction of sexual situations is graphic, bordering (and frequently trespassing) forbidden territory. This "IS" a movie for grown-ups. Without the sex sequences, the movie would simply fall apart. If you decide to go for it, please beware of any edited/cut versions. They would keep you safe from nudity and sex however, they would leave you guessing, hopelessly trying to find some sense for the (at this point) loose images rolling on screen. Lina Romay is a wonderful leading lady and she delivers one of the best performances of her career. Her portrait of Countess Martine is convincing and compelling. She is sensitive, romantic, passionate, sad, wild and crazy. Her wonderful big dark eyes have a unique and natural ability to express all kind of feelings. Her sensuality is intense and overwhelming. She doesn't only impersonate the character; she really "IS" Martine De Bressac! Susan Hemingway's character is also complex. She is young and pretty and shows generously her teen body. Perhaps she also actually tried to act here, which is hard to tell since, in my copy, she gets the worst and most vulgar Italian dubbing among the whole cast. Sadly, this little gem, in spite of being an Italian co-production, probably never made it to regular theatrical release in my own native country. I give it a 9 out of 10.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Underrated

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
8 March 2008

Sinfornia Erotica (1980)

*** (out of 4)

Disturbing and extremely well-made Jess Franco film about a woman (Lina Romay) returning home from an insane asylum only to discover her husband is now living with a man. The two men eventually find a nun (Susan Hemmingway) who's been raped and the three come up with a plot to kill the wife for her money. This is one of Franco's "art" films that manages to be quite beautiful in a poetic sense and ranks among one of his better films. The performances are all very good, especially Romay who once again gets to show off her sexual fits. Not nearly as explicit as I was expecting but still very good.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Truly an erotic symphony

Author: lazarillo from Denver, Colorado and Santiago, Chile
30 March 2014

If you're a fan of the late Spanish horror/porn director Jesus Franco, you could certainly do worse than this 1980 outing, which is--like much of the director's more interesting sex films--based on a story by the Marquis De Sade. A young noblewoman (Lina Romay) is released from an asylum and returns to her isolated castle where she finds her sexually depraved husband has taken up with both a pretty-boy male gigolo and a libertine, runaway novice nun (Susan Hemingway). What follows is a slowly developing murder plot interrupted by no small amount of sex.

I enjoy Franco most when he's indulging in polymorphous perversion like he does here--you have bondage, nunsploitation, gay sex, a "Devil's three-way" (two guys and a girl), and a couple impaled while having sex. This is truly an "erotic symphony" as Franco plays the bodies of his assorted cast like instruments (and scores the whole thing with classical music) making the actual plot more of secondary consideration.

Of course, Franco can't keep his camera off the vaginas of his two actresses, but at least he doesn't try to zoom his way back into the womb like he tends to in some movies. He gets a lot of mileage out of his wife/leading lady's bounteous breasts, but he tragically neglects the beautiful post-adolescent posterior of Susan Hemingway, which COULD have finally been enjoyed without guilt here as she had reached the age of majority by this time. (Pervert that he was though, Franco would trade her for the even younger Katja Beinert in his subsequent early 80's films). The gay sex scene is not particularly graphic, but unusual for Franco. Whether you like it or not, you have to admire the sheer variety of sex on display, particularly given how complete compartmentalized and commodified sex films are TODAY. There will never be another one like Jess Franco. . .

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