Venus in Furs (1969)

aka Paroxismus

Article 3589 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-26-2011
Posting Date: 6-12-2011
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring James Darren, Barbara McNair, Maria Rohm
Country: UK / West Germany / Italy
What it is: Ghost story

A jazz musician finds the body of a beautiful woman washed up on the shore in Istanbul, a woman who he may have seen killed during a sadistic orgy. Then, in Rio, he encounters the woman, seemingly alive, and has a love affair with her. Meanwhile, the other participants of the orgy begin dying one by one.

Jesus Franco’s masterpiece? Given the fact that I think Franco has wasted more celluloid than practically any other director I know, you would think I would be hesitant to proclaim any movie of his a masterpiece. But, truth to tell, when he’s good, he’s very good, and when he’s working on movies where his obsession with sadism dovetails well with the story, he can be very effective, and such is the case here. The movie is focused and has a story, the arty touches are fun and interesting, and even the constant music interludes serve a purpose; after all, the story is largely being told through the point of view of a jazz musician who feels more at ease communicating with his music than with words. Some of the dialogue is fairly dated, and I don’t really care for the touch that the soundtrack breaks into the “Venus in Furs” song after each death, even if it does play a role in the final twist of the movie; I think this latter problem could have been fixed by omitting the vocalist until the final sequence. Yet these are very minor problems, and I don’t think they really detract from what may well be Franco’s most fully realized work. So, yes, I will say this one is probably his masterpiece.


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