Eugenie, a beautiful but shy young girl, has been living with her stepfather, Albert since her mother died when she was a baby. He is a famous writer specializing in stories of erotica. One ... Read allEugenie, a beautiful but shy young girl, has been living with her stepfather, Albert since her mother died when she was a baby. He is a famous writer specializing in stories of erotica. One day she happens to read one of his "erotic" books and its power so affects her that begins... Read allEugenie, a beautiful but shy young girl, has been living with her stepfather, Albert since her mother died when she was a baby. He is a famous writer specializing in stories of erotica. One day she happens to read one of his "erotic" books and its power so affects her that begins to find herself sexually attracted to him. He notices this, and eventually brings her int... Read all
Forget what the plot is supposedly about. If you don't have the DVD, there's an accompanying interview with Franco on making the film. His discussion of De Sade and how that informs his work is as boring as De Sade's own writings, but look how he lights up when he starts talking about Soledad. As an old man, you can tell he is still touched by having known her. It is the same mystique that enthralled Von Sternberg to Dietrich.
Born, according to Franco at least, to gypsy parents, she was a successful flamenco dancer and singer before making the transition to film. I've only seen her in this and Vampyros, she's great in both but in the extraordinary way of dancers. It isn't about acting, she wasn't much good in the sense Streep is good. It's having a presence, enchanting, teasing by simple breath.
As Franco talks of her, that segment is peppered with images of her from the film, the rest of the film was beginning to blur but every single one of those I could instantly remember—crouched before a fireplace holding her knees, grazing a thigh, splayed on a bed, pensive with sunglasses in the car, gypsy tinkle in the eye before murder, playful dancing out of her skimpy skirt, I will probably revisit the film years later and be able to recall every pose. And isn't this what the film is about?
It's Franco photographing Soledad.
There's a surrogate father here who, in essence, takes Soledad on the journey to staged erotic images. Franco is actually in the film as the 'writer' looking for a fascinating character.
It's probably his most pure, because it is most purely about his desire to photograph beauty (and murder). The film begins with a softcore scene that leads to strangulation, 'looked on' by Franco as the director. Framed as Soledad's confessional to Franco, the whole film is gauzy, erotic reminisces on a deathbed. So how poignant when you know that she was already dead when the film was released? That, framed as memory, this is the last we'll see of her?
And the images? The violence is tame by contemporary standards, which is for the better, fewer distraction. Being so blatantly stagy, it even adds to the effect. And whereas the male-driven story of violence is typically sloppy, the images, Soledad's images as she remembers, attain a unique quality. Soft around the edges, selfless by contrast to Sade's juvenile philosophy of selfishness.
Seeing select footage of this at some film festival, you'd call it experimental. Sometimes the camera roams over mundane details, sometimes it floats in air, sometimes it blurs and finds again, faces, textures of weather. It's as if someone is trying to remember, distorting, fixating, carried along by intruding thoughts—a sort of inverse visual Lolita.
It isn't self-consciously so, which again is for the better. A filmmaker with a semiconscious talent for images, films a woman (not outright sexy) semiconscious of her allure. It's great if you can drift in that space between them.
- Mar 17, 2013