Tuesday, May 05, 2015

A Morning With Jess

I went to bed earlier than usual and awoke much earlier than usual. The angle of the sunlight in all the rooms of the house feels alien to me; it was much too direct behind my computer screen and I had to draw the shades. Not feeling quite alert enough to start working, I decided to watch all the extras on the two new Jess Franco releases from Severin, VAMPYROS LESBOS and SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY, which brought me back into that world.

It was both wonderful and sad to see Jess again, and the contrast between him at the end and the footage of the more vigorous, obsessive and ambitious man he was when he was younger, acting in his own films. Since he died, I have watched maybe three of his films; they feel different to me now that they are no longer part of a living continuum. Not less important, just different; I saw enough in the clips accompanying the extras to know that these films are getting richer in perspective, and in retrospective. When Jess was alive and still making films, any move he made held the possibility of affecting everything else he had done. Bringing back Al Pereira, or casting Lina in her final role as Alma Pereira in PAULA-PAULA, it had an effect on the way I thought of a dozen other pictures featuring that character, or a riff on him like Antonio Mayans' Al Crosby in LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS.

Seeing the clips of VAMPYROS LESBOS where Jess was basically restaging with Soledad Miranda and Ewa Stroemberg the scene in DRACULA where Bela Lugosi offers Dwight Frye wine with his dinner, but with sunlight instead of moonlight and fishing nets everywhere instead of cobwebs, I made the connection that, here, he was reinventing everything, as a director, in the same way that Christina von Blanc's character would reinvent everything that she sees in A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, as a schizophrenic mental patient - seeing the mental hospital where she is kept as a hotel, and the doctors as hotel staff. It's an opportunity for the filmmaker to use whatever they have at their disposal to tell any story they care to tell, and for the viewer, it's an opportunity to see differently.

The Blu-ray presentations look exquisite. Frame grabs from Severin's VAMPYROS LESBOS.

 Frame grabs from Severin's SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY: