Thursday, February 07, 2013

Loving the Vampire

I watched Jess Franco's FEMALE VAMPIRE (1973) tonight via Netflix on my Kindle Fire HD. It turned out to be an unexpectedly wonderful way of watching it, making it a more intimate and book-like experience. It may be the first time I've seen it in French with subtitles, and the soundtrack is alive from beginning to end with the sounds of nature and people; there is a scene where Jack Taylor follows Lina Romay to a public place scattered with empty chairs though we hear a crowd of children and grown-ups milling about, talking and laughing -- but, you see, he only has eyes for her. This is remarkable stuff and something I've never gotten from the English dub.

FEMALE VAMPIRE, aka THE LOVES OF IRINA aka EROTIKILL, is basically the story of four lonely sexual encounters ending in death; it depicts the grief of solitude in the lives of three of its victims before dispatching them, and we are given glimpses in the aftermath assuring us these lost souls are no longer alone. There's very little script, so it unfolds remarkably slowly for a film whose cult only came about in the age of the short attention span. "Elegiac pacing," they call it.

But what is very obvious to me about the film now, seeing it again and knowing when in their story it was filmed chronologically, is that it's the marriage contract between Jess and Lina. This was Lina's first starring role. She knew that Jess was mourning Soledad Miranda, who had portrayed a premonition of this character in VAMPYROS LESBOS, made the same year (1970) she died in an automobile accident at the age of 27. And she literally gives him Soledad and more. She is not only declaring her love but demonstrating it, serving up all she has to give to his eye and camera. And he worships her in return, which is all she asks in order to give him everything. Which is, in effect, a vision of the remainder of his career. The film begins with them meeting, when he is only a camera; she steps out of the misty woods and he gives her a good look up and down, like one forest creature meeting another. She butts him away so the story can be told, and it only ends when the two characters they play, his (a forensic surgeon) searching for hers ("the mouth that kills") for most of the running time, finally meet on the same plane, in the the same room.

And Jess lives.

FEMALE VAMPIRE is also available on Blu-ray and DVD from Redemption Video.

1 comment:

  1. I revisited Female Vampire myself a few days ago and the one thing that stuck out to me on this past viewing was Jack Taylor's character and his wanting to go "beyond the mist" with Irina. For a film that seems so underwritten as Female Vampire in terms of dialogue, there's a lot more going on that most would probably give it credit for.

    I think it has a lot more impact now seeing as we're approaching the one year mark of Lina's all too soon passing. It's really a phenomenal film, one that’s really hard not to be put in a trance while watching it.

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