21 October, 2013

Further Thoughts on THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA


Marie-France (Alice Arno, real name Marie-France Broquet) is hired by Bigotini, a somewhat sleazy Parisian agent (Rick Deconninck), as a professional companion to the paralyzed daughter (Veronica Llimera)  of the wealthy Mr. Radeck (Paul Muller) at his villa on a Greek island. When she arrives Radeck informs her that she will have to act as a nurse to Linda and deal with his emotionally disturbed niece, Olivia (Lina Romay), a nymphomaniac with a cause, described by Radeck as "a paranoid obsessed with sex."
Everything and everyone in this highly dysfunctional household will be revealed as deceptive and threatening to the increasingly disturbed, and stimulated, Marie-France. Will she be the family's savior, or its victim?

First of all, let's get the titles straight. The main feature here is MAIS QUI DONC A VIOLE LINDA? (BUT WHO RAPED LINDA?), presented with its hardcore, alternate version LES NUITS BRULANTES DE LINDA (THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA) as an extra bonus feature on the 3 disc Limited Edition. This was one of over a dozen feature film projects begun by Jess Franco in 1973, which would result in 11 completed films and several intriguing sounding, aborted shoots, such as Le Manoir du Pendu (The Hanged Man's Mansion).

The well-meaning, kindly Marie-France could be one of the exquisitely naive heroines of  a 1950s Douglas Sirk melodrama (IMITATION OF LIFE, WRITTEN ON THE WIND) who gets caught up in a whirlwind of psycho-sexual corruption while attempting to keep her bearings. "It's a question of morality," she informs Bigotini, who replies he wouldn't know anything about that. One of the least remarked about aspects of the films of Jess Franco is how he consistently produces what could be termed fables of punishment within the amoral system of European Sexploitation over several distinct eras. His most personal projects, the breakaways, including NECRONOMICON-1967, VENUS IN FURS-1969,  LORNA, THE EXORCIST-(1974), to name a few, are about the systematic punishment of libertines by daemonic females. In the world of Jess Franco during this period you can attend an orgy, torture and murder a woman, cheat on your wife, sell your soul to devil, but someone, as the song in VENUS IN FURS goes, will come knocking on your door. But this is just a formal element one also finds in Medieval painting and literature, both of which are directly referenced in NECRONOMICON. The real Jess Franco admired Sade both as a anti-hero and a literary-philosophical visionary. In Sade punishment is always erotic and presented as a kind of psychoanalytic spectacle, a kind of performance art which Jess Franco would start incorporating into his obsessive mise-en-scene from NECRONOMICON onward. Radeck is a classic sadist who whips the mute servant Abdul (Pierre Taylou) in the same set used for the torture dungeon whipping scene in Franco's LA COMTESSE NOIRE, also made in 1973. If this can be viewed as a Sadean melodrama, it also has something in common with the horror genre, a monster. In this film, as in Franco's A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS, THE SECRET OF DR. ORLOFF and many other titles, the monster is the Family.

At base, Jess Franco, like Goya, Dali, Cervantes, was a Spanish artist, with all the baggage that entails. He might have found himself living in Paris, Rome or wherever but he would always return to Spain, just as Mathis Vogel would return to confess his sins to his colleague at Notre Dame in EL SADICO DE NOTRE DAME.

Franco, like Luis Bunuel, finds much ironic amusement in the punishment of sinners, ever though neither director, both Spanish iconoclasts, was a believer in Jesus or Francisco Franco, inescapable icons in a Catholic country still living under a dictatorship which found something in common with other European Fascist movements from the 1930s onward. LINDA... like Bunuel's VIRIDIANA (1961) is primarily about rape within a family and the fallout from the repression of that fact. Of course, Bunuel's film was famously banned in its homeland and I doubt if Franco's film, although mostly shot in Alicante (the opening was lensed in Paris) played there in any form during the1970s.

NOTE: When I mentioned the Bunuel parallel to Franco during my interview with him in 2004, he quickly replied, "But Bunuel was free, I was not." Actually, Bunuel paid a price for being given carte blanche while Jess Franco paid a different price. LINDA... was a French-Italian co production between Eurocine and Parva films. As we shall see, 1973 would be the year when Jess Franco found a kind of artistic freedom within a strict economic imperative imposed by Eurocine. In the next blog post I'll discuss how this film fulfills a conventional contract while finding a unique cinema structure which the director himself confirms was inspired by the prose experimentation of James Joyce.

(C) Robert Monell, 2013

No comments: