09 November, 2020

LOS BLUES DE LA CALLE POP (Jesus Franco, 1983)

Los Blues De La Calle Pop 1983 80 MINUTES Galan Video (Spain) European Trash Cinema (U.S. import). Written, Photographed and Directed by Jess Franco. Cast: Robert Foster (Antonio Mayans), Candy Coster (Lina Romay), Jose Llamas, Trino Treves, Mary Sad, Analia Ivars, Jess Franco, Augustin Garcia. -------------------------------------------------------------------- (a.k.a. AVENTURAS DE FELIPE MALBORO, VOLUMEN 8) Felipe Marlboro, ideally incarnated by Franco mainstay Antonio Mayans ("Robert Foster"), is a seedy private investigator who takes up a missing person case in punk infested Shit City, a sub-Fellini nightclub world in which all the males seem to hang out in a smoky bar decorated with posters of Bogart and Mae West, waiting for trouble to erupt. The residents of this corrupt town all look like they base their fashion sense on MTV. The men look like either Sid Vicious or a member of A Flock of Seagulls, and the women sport the slutty attire and pouty sexuality of Robert Palmer's female back-up in his music video "Addicted to Love." Likewise, (as the visual style of the film is a whacked-out array of shimmering primary colors and weird camera angles.
The plot has Marlboro enlisting the aid of piano player Sam Chesterfield (played by Jess Franco himself) in an all out effort to bust the town's drug and dirty money kingpin Saul Winston (Trino Trives). This witty and visually striking neo-noir parody is one of Franco's personal favorites, and it's easy to see why. Almost every shot in the film is a loving homage to 1940s private eye cinema (such as THE MALTESE FALCON and THE BIG SLEEP) filtered through a 1980s MTV-style lens. It's also retro-punk and looks forward to more familiar cine-comic books, such as SIN CITY. Franco has stated that he attempted to sustain a comic-book look in many of his genre efforts. He totally succeeded in this film as he did in his amusing 1967 spy spoof, LUCKY THE INSCRUTABLE. He also pulled it off in his 1971 answer to a 1940s Universal Pictures monster rally, DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN. Our guide through the punk nightmare world of POP STREET BLUES is the director's trusted actor-collaborator-friend Antonio Mayans, who is the perfect fall guy in Franco's off-world of pimps, whores, killers, and thugs. Sexy Analia Ivars makes for a perfect lean and mean femme fatale.
Franco stages the well worn private eye cliches in his usual iconoclastic fashion. For instance, when Marlboro gets a beating for asking too many questions, the guy who kicks the living daylights out of him is a flashy flamenco dancer who performs his dance steps in between each punch and kick. Most amusing of all is the twisted ending, which finds Marlboro seduced by the woman who has set him up for extinction.
Franco adorns this very personal project with a quick-paced editing style, brightly colored comic book frames, seedy locations shot through diffusion lenses, and a rousing New Orleans style jazz score by longtime Franco friend-collaborator Fernando Garcia Morcillo. LA BLUES DE LA CALLE POP is a continual delight to see and hear. Franco's experimental deployment of colored filters is especially interesting (as is Franco's stylistically similar 1986 punk-Eurospy adventure ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN) and makes me wonder why he didn't continue in this style. Instead, his next several films (leaving aside such purely commercial projects as FALO CREST and FACELESS), such as DARK MISSION (1987), ESMERALDA BAY (1989), FALL OF THE EAGLES and DOWNHEAT HEAT (1990), mostly display much more conventional visual aesthetics.
Seen in today's cult-music/movie friendly age, LOS BLUES DE LA CALLE POP could be designated as "retro-punk" in style, tone and theme. One gets the feeling that Muddy Waters would have understood it. There's even a touch of CASABLANCA, including the iconic poster for that 1943 classic. With the director himself as the reliable piano man one waits for someone to say, "Play it again, Jess." (C)Robert Monell, 2020 Franco index