12 February, 2010

PAULA-PAULA: An Audiovisual Experience

Luis Garcia Berlanga: Franco's inspiration

A sleazy 1972 Al Pereira crime film and one of the ancestors of PAULA-PAULA

The single exterior shot in a film of interiors*

Alma Pereira, Lina Romay's female variation on Franco's favorite PI, Al Pereira

CFB 2010
PAULA-PAULA: An Audiovisual Experience
66m PAL R 0
Directed by Jess Franco
Story and Dialogue by Rosa Ma Almirall
Music: Friedrich Gulda
Operator Jess Franco - Widescreen
Edited by Jess Franco, Beatriz Alcala & Alberto Sedano
Costumes & Make up: Rosa Ma Almirall
Special Video Effects: Jess Franco, Alberto Sedano, Beatriz Alcana
Produced by CBF Films
Cast: Carmen Montes (Paula), Paula Davis (Paula), Lina Romay (Alma Pereira).
Dedicated to the memory of maestro Friedrich Gulda

Language: SPANISH w English subtitles

Alma Pereira (Lina Romay) is a female police officer [cf Al Pereira in 1972's LES ERBRANLEES {Howard Vernon) or Antonio Mayans in the 1982 BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO, etc] investigating the murder of an exotic dancer at a sleazy club in Malaga, Spain. Called to the Flamingo Club in a back alley of Antofagasta she confronts the prime suspect, Paula(Carmen Montes), a friend of the victim. After a brief Q & A the balance of the film shows what happened in the interval leading up to the killing, which turns out to be a crime of passion. Or is it all in the mind of Paula?

Robert Louis Stevenson's THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE may have been a starting point but this is a film essentially built around  the late Friedrich Gulda's musical composition,  an upbeat Jazz fantasia which takes us back to the ambiance of NECRONOMICON (1967), the story of the killing of the Prince by the demoniac woman in the garden of the Devil is repeated from that classic Jess Franco title. It is a film with obviously made with no budget, made up of mainly color variations, the morphing image of an exotic dancer and music. This has to be one of his lowest budgeted films. No sets except for an apartment, no real script, a situation rather than a story, a few lines of dialogue, one costume, an alley exterior, glittering nothingness. And Franco was his own operator! The last days of Orson Welles come to mind. Summed up with this note: Y NUNA MAS SE VOLVI A OIR HABLAR DEL SHOW DE PAULA-PAULA.

It's a magical, blessedly brief, experimental neo-noir which illustrates a terrific musical score and the director's boredom with the illusion of reality.. Like Jess himself, it's infused with joy and delightful surprises. Things that our troubled world can never get enough of.

Jess Franco has been in the movie business for as long as I've been alive and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Once upon a time in Spain Luis Garcia Berlanga told Jess Franco that all you need is a movie camera.... If Berlanga was his inspiration, along with Stevenson, many may be taken aback by the severe minimalism of the project. Franco regulars just need to know that it's %100 Jess Franco.

Wearing his dark glasses, a bright red pullover and smoking with class, Jess seems energized and younger than ever in the introduction and interviews. He defines himself as "young at heart" and is anxious (at 79!) to make a new series of films. He reminds us that age is not a matter of years but a state of mind. I don't think I've ever seen him as relaxed and happy. Interesting that he states this is his 209th [!] film. That's about what I put it at considering the alternate versions in his extensive filmography.

This DVD is worth seeing just for the Franco introduction, explanation and whatever-is-on-his-mind interview, all of which equal around 30m. And the Gulda Jazz soundtrack is worth the price of admission alone. This may be its creator's lowest- ever budgeted film but one of the best ones in terms of listening enjoyment. It is tier one Jess Franco? Or tier two? Part of the experience when dealing with Jess Franco is finding your own personal system of categorization.

It is presented in anamorphic widescreen (it looks about 1.85:1). Video and sound quality are sharp and clear.

Having seen it twice now I can attest that it takes on added interest on a follow-up visit as a stylish bookend, an extended lap dance or a pleasant way to spend an hour.

*Thanks to Alberto Sedano, Carlos Aguilar and Francesco Cesari.

(c) Robert Monell 2010

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dfordoom said...

The comparison to Welles is interesting, since I consider F for Fake, made on a budget of slightly less than nothing, to be his masterpiece. Welles seemed to revel in the freedom offered by do-it-yourself zero-budget film-making.

And Jess is kind of like the exploitation movie version of Welles so it makes sense he'd have just as much fun making movies this way.

Robert Monell said...

Toward the end of his career no one would give Welles money to make films so he just did everything himself. That's great. This new Franco film is probably his lowest budgeted in years but Franco, like Welles, lives to film. I still have to see F FOR FAKE.

Robert Monell said...

dfordoom, if you want to write a short review of F FOR FAKE, I'll publish it here. Guest reviews are always welcome, especially if they are films by Welles. You can send it to my email monell579@hotmail.com.

dfordoom said...

Robert, you'll love F for Fake. Given that Welles was pretty much a European film-maker by this time, and given that he and Franco knew each other, I'd assume Franco would have seen this movie at the time. And he'd have loved it!

It's a movie that shows that the two film-makers really were on surprisingly similar wavelengths. It's Welles' most overtly erotic movie as well.

Anonymous said...

F For Fake is great but I wouldn't say it's erotic. Probally the only Welles movie to really have any eroticism is The Other Side of the Wind and we sadly might never see how erotic it is, but for a tease check out the love scene on youtube that takes place in a car, it's very erotic.

Even at the beginning of Welles's career he was on a similar wavelength to Franco. I love that story about how when Welles was shooting It's All True in South America, the studio pulled the funding and one by one his entire crew abandoned him until it was just Welles by himself on a beach running the camera. He had no funding, nothing, but he still kept filming as long as he could.

Alex Bakshaev said...

This updated review is filling me with enthusiasm regarding "Paul-Paula" and Franco's upcoming films, his creativity is flourishing and taking on new forms yet again.