26 January, 2015

SHINING SEX- Part 2 (1975)

The above Italian poster, suggesting a high spirited Euro sex comedy a la Edwige Fenech, couldn't be more misleading....

Credited to "Dan Simon" this no-budget science fiction sex number is one of Jess Franco's most imaginative and daring experiments in genre digression. SHINING SEX-LA FILLE AU SEXE BRILLANT was filmed back to back with MIDNIGHT PARTY, according to Monica Swinn~on EL FRANCONOMICON~in the same locations (mainly the geometric luxury hotel complex, LE GRANDE MOTTE,  in South France), with much the same cast and crew.

A Eurocine/Brux Inter Films-Brussels production. Lina Romay stars as a ditzy stripper in both films but there the similarity ends. MIDNIGHT PARTY registers as a termite Eurospy comedy, with the director himself as Radeck, Agent 008, a villain who practices the fine art of torture. SHINING SEX... is a grim, downward spiral into zombie seduction, mind control and death, all watched over by Jess Franco, playing a Hammeresque investigator, Dr. Seward.  As usual, performance and watching, that unique dynamic with which the director is so fascinated, takes center stage.

[ Above: Metaphysical transformation, Hollywood style, cf Jess Franco's SHINING SEX]

 Performance is always dangerous, exciting and a means into an altered state of being. Here it leads to an altered state of consciousness as giggly stripper Cinthia (Lina Romay) is introduced applying makeup, then onstage, performing "Shining Sex" a dance of her own creation which captures the attention of two mysterious customers in the club, Alpha (Evelyn Scott rn Evelyne Deher) and Andros (Ramon Ardid), the latter wearing sunglasses which seem to signal a lounge-Eurocime-spy lizard. The wall paper in the club has rectangular patterns and when Cinthia joins the couple in their room they enter that part of the hotel through a another semi rectangular opening.

The sprawling hotel structure is formed from cubicles, living spaces, forming large pyramids which hover over the area and bay. Thumping industrial sounds and sparkling impulses on the soundtrack make the sci fi undercurrent all the more palpable. It all exists on some subliminal plane, as do Alpha and co. beings from an alternate dimensions scoping out our world and on a mission to exterminate a psychic (Monica Swinn) and the biologist, Dr. Van Helsing (Olivier Mathot) who have become aware of their existence and the threat they pose.

The most daring segment of this film is the 5 minute plus, dialogue free journey taken by Cinthia and Van Helsing down a river in "Africa" as drums are heard beating on the soundtrack. Nothing happens, but we are treated to views (via stock footage) of various tropical animal life in and on the banks of the river as the two characters seem lost in thought as they remain separate on different parts of the vessel. It's a hypnotic sequence, taking the viewing into a twilight zone beyond time, space and narrative functionality. The are moments like this spread throughout, like the presence of the rose on the wall during the sex scene between Romay and Scott, but this sequence either shuts the audience down or invites the adventurous into a new kind of cinema adventure. Few will take the latter offer, since, after all "it's only a sex film." 

Andros, Alpha's slave, tells Cintha he was a normal human until his boat entered a mist, evoking the transforming fog of Jack Arnold's THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN. But the stakes here are equally delirious, and deadly. Alpha will seduce and destroy the targets through a sexual transference of a poison inserts in her vagina via an unguent. Hence, as often in Jess Franco's ,Sex=Death. Cinthia informs the psychic that she is there to make love to her and to kill her, and that's what she does. Much like the love unto death interludes in LA COMTESSE NOIRE 1973 where Romay was a female vampire who loved and dispatched male and female partners after removing essential fluids, death through sexual dehydration. And both films conclude with Jess Franco witnessing the death of Lina Romay, something that sadly would occur in real life when the actress preceded the director, tragically passing away on  February 15, 2012at the age of 57. Jess Franco would die in 2013 at the age of 82, shortly after completing his last feature, the digital comedy AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES.

Life, love, sex, death, that's what it's all about. In Jess Franco's universe performance becomes the invisible cement which seals them all together. And if it's on film, it becomes immortal.The loved one dies as the lover watches while the film is watched by an audience of human beings who will someday also die.

SHINING SEX exists in at least 3 versions, an 85 minute hardcore, a 95 minute cut which omits some hardcore footage and a 102 minute cut, on which this review is based. Longer versions are also rumored to exist in the vaults of Eurocine. 

(C) Robert Monell, 2015

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