Marquis de Sade’s Justine (1969)

Article 2044 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-19-2006
Posting Date: 3-18-2007
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Klaus Kinski, Romin Power, Maria Rohm

Two young women are expelled from a convent when their money runs out. One turns to prostitution and, following her evil ways, rises in the world. The other chooses the path of virtue and finds herself victimized at every turn by the unscrupulous.

I’m not familiar with the writings of De Sade, nor do I particularly have much interest in pursuing that knowledge, so I can’t say whether Franco’s foray into his work really captures the views and philosophy of the man. I will say, however, that this is the first movie I’ve seen of Franco’s that makes me understand something of his appeal; it definitely has a marked sense of style about it, and I never once get the feeling that the movie is running on automatic pilot. It’s only marginally genre, however; take away the torture sequences in the monastery and the fact that the monks are quite mad, and there’s no horror content here at all. Reportedly, it was his most expensive movie to date, which may explain how he was able to gather together a fairly impressive cast; Jack Palance (who gives a truly eccentric performance), Klaus Kinski (as de Sade), Akim Tamiroff, Mercedes McCambridge and Howard Vernon all appear. One impression I got from the movie is that, despite all the darkness and perversion, it is at least partially a comedy, particularly during the first half; since I saw the complete 124 minute version, it leaves me wondering which thirty minutes were cut from the movie and what it was like in that form. At times Franco’s style is annoying, particularly during the first scene where he overuses the technique of going in and out of focus. Nonetheless, I found this movie much more watchable and enjoyable than most of the other Franco movies I’ve seen. Quite frankly, I’m surprised; I thought I was going to hate this one and that I would have to strain to say something nice.


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