Tuesday, February 07, 2006

in furs and denim

Two recent film viewings that I have to share: Firstly, Jess Franco's jazzy, psychedelic, Venus in Furs (1969), which is my introduction to this director. The film indeed has style to burn (those slow-mo scenes set to the trippy score largely contributing to the hypno-mood), along with some bad, bad, bad dialogue, courtesy of a trumpet-playing James Darren's stone-faced first-person narration ("Oh my god...It's me. I'm dead! I've been dead all the time..."), but the film is ultimately most interesting because of the atmosphere generated by the zombie-like performances rather than its Vertigo-/Resnais-inspired narrative. The revenge story of a fur-fetishist, bisexual bargirl (drugged and beaten to death for evil "playboy millionaire" Klaus Kinski's sadistic pleasure) who comes back from the dead is executed in largely wordless and temporally elongated sequences - the best scenes in this exploitation flick by far. Yet, while it is enjoyable and appropriately idiosyncratic (just consider the scene when the titular heroine caresses the statue of Venus Di Millo while cruising James Darren's girlfriend), it doesn't make much of a lasting impression.

Quite unlike Radley Metzger's sublime, Score (1973), for which I jotted down this capsule-babble when I saw it a few days ago:

"In the Village of Leisure, in the lush little Land of Play, deep within the Erogenous Zone", live chronically hedonistic couple Jack and Elvira who attempt to seduce the (seemingly!) innocent new-couple-on-the-block, as they attempt to beat each other's score of same-sex experiences with strangers. Casual friendships are quickly set-up (after the initial romp with the telephone-repair man, of course), and the tense prey-couple of Eddie and Betsy appear for a dinner date at their predators' mansion, beginning the long night when Jack and Elvira's respective games of seduction are gently rocked into motion with weed, dildos, undone bras, and a nun's habit, a sailor's suit, cowboy hats and denim being donned, all with a certain comical abandonment, but without the realisation on the part of the prey that they are props in an immaculately-staged fantasy. That is, until the four become two twos - the women take on the upstairs bedroom and the men descend into the more-than-adequately-furnished basement - and Metzger's film settles into its relentless burn, revelling in the crushing of naïveté (/"middle-class morality", no less), just as the intense editing and rhythmic cross-cutting dances towards a unified climax, intact with trademark Metzger touches - mirrors reflecting reflected images of nude flesh, projected images in search of a screen, and subliminal identity switches (as a manifestation of Eddie's pre-penetration 'guilt'). This pansexual soft-core classic defies easy classification while proudly displaying its pretensions, and even today, it comes across as daring, hilarious, erotic, and absolutely essential.

4 Comments:

Anonymous girish said...

Mubarak, could you recommend a starter Metzger or two? Thanks.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Mubarak, I think I enjoyed Venus in Furs slightly less than you did, but your basic take on the film echoes my own. Score is quite a nice little film, though--I'm a Metzger fanboy! Girish, though you asked Mubarak, allow me to chime in with my own recommendations. I don't know all of Metzger's films, but if you're going to enjoy his work at all, you probably can't go wrong with his middle period, after his low-budget euro-classy-grindhouse influenced stuff like The Dirty Girls but before his hardcore period (and Barbara Broadcast and The Opening of Misty Beethoven are classics of adult cinema--tho' I haven't seen them yet). Therese and Isabelle is quite good--Resnais's hand is felt here, with the pitfalls (some 'artsy' posturing) and advantages (beautiful slow delicate pacing) that one might presume come with such an influence.

I wrote a review of my favorite one, The Lickerish Quartet here, by the way.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Girish, I've only seen a humble three Metzger's so far, so I'd point you to Zach's recommendations (thanks, Zach!). The Lickerish Quartet was my first Metzger (it was that very Slant review which convinced me to check it out well over a year ago), and it's a fascinating film. Camille 2000 is pretty groovy, too. Eric has also reviewed a bunch of his films for Slant, and has mostly praise for them.

(Some more Metzger reading: A '75 article from Film International, and an interview with Film Comment.)

6:20 AM  
Blogger girish said...

You guys are amazing.
Thank you.

7:27 PM  

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