26 January, 2021


The Divine Marquis... *FLORES DE PERVERSION is based on the posthumous Sade text "Augustine de villeblanche, ou le stratageme de l'amour: HISTORIETTES: CONTES ET FABLIAUS de Donatien-Alphonse-Francois, marquis de Sade, publies pour la premiere fois sur les manuscrits autographs inedits par Maurice Heine. A Paris, pour les members de la Societe du Roman Philosophique, 1926. 4to , 340 pages. 

A Manacoa Film Production Filmed in Malaga, Spain PAL R2 X-Rated-Kult DVD Spanish & German language options with removable English subtitles. Photo Gallery Original Trailer X-Rated Kult Trailers.  

 Mme Villeblanche (Lina Romay) operates an upscale prostitution empire located in a office tower somewhere in Spain. She spends most of her days frolicking in bed with her assistant (Rachael Sheppard), occasionally interrupted by business calls on her cellphone. Two new hookers are hired to lure clients into the torture chambers of Mme... a one-way trip for the customers. Jess Franco has returned to Sade again and again since JUSTINE in 1968. That adaptation of Sade's infamous 1791 novel was scripted by producer Harry Alan Towers, this 21st Century shot-on-Hi-Def direct-to-DVD item, along with its 2005 [onscreen (C) 2003] sister project FLORES DE PASION, has yet to make it to R1 Blu ray. 

 Just as he brought Sade into the 20th Century with works like EUGENIE DE SADE (1970), PLAISIR A TROIS (1973) and EUGENIE...THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1970), he's now brought him into the early 21st Century, an age of cellphones, shaved pubic hair and the Internet. This is a situational rather than "plot" film, with Fata Morgana, Carmen Montes acting out bondage, whipping, castration scenarios which climax with sexual cannibalism under the direction of Franco's Princess of Eroticism, Lina Romay. 

This isn't a "nice" movie; approach with caution. Once again, it's all shot in anonymous apartments, hotel rooms and what looks like a brick-walled parking garage... minimalist indoor settings in which the "perverted" tableau unfold. The pubic shaving, lesbian groping and whippings go on and on until "duration" becomes just a term. Nothing often happens in Jess Franco films. That's not a typo. There's no fresh air in this perverse, enclosed universe. Sunlight is replaced by onscreen production lamps, pink, green, yellow electronica and colorized digital noise. We don't even have the comfort of continuous full color, sometimes the image turns b&w, with blood-red highlights. 

 A nude man is crucified upside down and another (Ezequiel Cohen) is flayed, then castrated before his [obviously fake] genitalia are eaten by the hungry whores of the Mme... It's an artificial paradise, a vivid, unapologetic alternate reality presented for your consideration.... the Divine Marquis would be proud. Obsessively interactive with the ladies teasing the camera lens and the viewer beyond while the Franco favorite "Life is Shit" (THE MIDNIGHT PARTY) and other familiar JF tunes are heard on the soundtrack as if caught in a maddening loop. Will the future be a world without men, just languid, intelligent women who control finances and themselves and enjoy using sex as power? Is Jess wanting us to squirm amidst the sexual terrors? It's disturbing, amusing, boring, fascinating all at the same time. I changed my mind about it. You might hate it. You might, like myself, be unnerved to watch our blissful daughters of Sappho, their faces stained with a jet of the recently castrated victim's blood, look into the camera with an evil smile and assert, "And you...will be next." They really knows how to hurt a guy, at least in the mise en scene of movie reality. And it is only a movie.

You get the distinct impression that Franco wants you to take it personally and will break up laughing when you do. It will be knowing, conspiratorial laughter. He wants you to have an internal debate.   As I stated on my FACEBOOK homepage, I didn't enjoy it on first viewing. But seeing it again, well... let's just say it takes repeat viewings, if you can take it ... and that's a Big if!  Jess Franco, you're beautiful, piss me off any time you want. I get it.

Thanks to Francesco Cesari for suggesting I might want to think twice.... Thanks to Eric Cotenas for helping me see the R2 German Kult DVD. Watch it in Spanish with English subs if you can get it. A German language track is also available. I wonder what my reaction will be to FLORES DE PASION? 

(C) Robert Monell, 2020 (updated)

05 January, 2021

AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO (1973, Jesus Franco)


AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO is the Spanish-language version of this twisted psychological thriller, which also exists in a more explicit French-language version.

Though the production looks rushed and is somewhat incoherent, it is one of the busy director's most effective and moving examinations of mental illness, as well as the possible connection between insanity and the world of the occult.

Ana (Emma Cohen) is a musically talented but repressed woman who, though in her twenties, still lives with her parents. The day Ana announces her engagement, her overprotective father (Howard Vernon) suddenly and inexplicably commits suicide. Ana leaves home to forget the tragedy and finds companionship and work in a jazz band in Lisbon.

After awhile, she experiences disturbing visions of her father's death. Also, she hears his voice calling her from a haunted mirror that appears in her room. Inside this strange mirror-world, she encounters several men trying to win her affections. She brutally murders them at her dead father's command.

Coming back to reality, she attempts suicide but is saved at the last moment. Despite a therapeutic rest period, her psychosis persist and she commits more murders. Finally, there is a deadly supernatural reckoning when the magic mirror is destroyed.

This unique addition to the Franco canon keeps the viewer emotionally engaged in Ana's tragedy, mostly due to Cohen's excellent performance. Thankfully, the film lacks the clinical, ultra-close-up quality that sometimes keeps the viewer at arm's-length in some of Franco's other thrillers.

Most fascinating is how Franco relates Ana's problem to religion, visually correlated by repeated shots of churches, religious statues, and evocative paintings. Ana's father is shown to be a devout Catholic who uses
faith to hide from his darker impulses. The plot's mystery is never really solved, but a final "vision" in the magical mirror suggests a possible explanation.

In addition, Franco populates the movie with a lot of Freudian imagery (cf. Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND), some of it bordering on the surreal: one almost subliminal image (in the French version) shows a goldfish transforming into a knife that Ana uses on one of her victim. The horrifying and repeated image of the father's corpse leads Ana again and again into the realm of madness and death. This same image also appears in Franco's VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, another study of a family tragedy.

Vernon is chilling in his role as the ambiguous father. Unfortunately, much of his performance is lost in the French version in favor of added erotic scenes featuring Lina Romay and Alice Arno.

The Spanish version also has a haunting music theme, which is replayed at different tempos, tracking the downward spiral of Ana's madness. The island of Madeira provided a breathtaking location for this nightmarish story, as it also did for THE BARE BREASTED COUNTESS, filmed
in the same year. Ana's personal mirror world, the reality on the other side of the mirror, is filled with both psychological and occult symbols. A fish out of water becomes a knife with which Ana will murder his current suitor. Jacques Lacan's theoretical STATE DU MIRIOR (Mirror Phase/State) comes to mind. Ana's father has a perhaps unconscious sexual obsession with his daughter, which is also glimpsed in the mirror phase. His spirit has seemed to have psychologically or supernaturally embedded itself in her subconscious, and it wants her to kill her lovers, which are competitors for the dead man's desperate, evil spirit. Or is it all due to Ana's disturbed emotional state, which is immersing her into violent fantasies?

Above: The specter of Luis Bunuel haunts AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO>

The final image of Ana in her wedding gown brings up visual memory of the title character in Luis Bunuel's macabre 1961 dark satire VIRIDIANA in her bridal gown which she has put on to cater to the perverse desires of her hypocritical guardian. In the case of the Bunuel film the older guardian of the heroine also hangs himself when he is about to lose control of the object of desire. When I mentioned this to Jess Franco when I interviewed him he denied any direct influence, adding "he [Bunuel] was free; I was not." Which was technically true, Bunuel was given carte blanche by the Spanish censor and Francisco Franco government. It was only when they saw the finished film that they moved to withdraw and ban the film in Spain for years. Franco, who claimed to just be a director of a "commercial project" had no such guarantee. 

Seen in it's uncut version, the film has a more focused emphasis on Ana's musical career and several sidebars featuring the more normal aspects of her daily life. This result in making her final fate more tragic.

al otro lado del espejo

1973 80 Minutes Q Video (Spain)/95 Minutes DVD (France). Director: Jesus Franco.
Cast: Emma Cohen, Howard Vernon, Robert Woods, Ramiro Oliveros, Waldemar Wohlfahrt,, Jess Franco, Philippe Lemaire, Franciose Brion, Alice Arno,Adela Tauler, Carmen Carbonnel< . Music: Adolfo Waitzman. Songs: Roger Sarbib. Produced by Robert De Nesle-CFFP-Paris,
Jose Manuel Herero Producciones Orfeo S.A. Madrid. DP: Antonio Milan. Editor: Gerard Kikone, Mercedes Alonso. Asst. dir: Ana Maria Settimo de Esteva. Art dir: Luis Vasquez. Stills: Mario Lippert (Howard Vernon), Francesca Da Silva.   

The additional cast in the French version: Lina Romay, Monique Delaunay, Roman Ardid. 

Note: The Andre Benichou music for the French version is downbeat and largo tempo compared to the jaunty opening piano theme of the Spanish version. The Gerard Brissaud cinematography in the additional French scenes lacks the style and polish of the Spanish shot scenes.  


(C) Robert Monell 2021