Claiming to be based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, the "experience" centers around beautiful but disturbed Paula (Carmen Montes), committed to a mental institution after murdering--or did she?--her friend/lover, also named Paula (Paula Davis). Things get confusing, though, as it's not entirely clear whether this second Paula actually exists, or is the Hyde-like manifestation of Paula-Prime's id. (Franco's life-partner and muse Lina Romay makes a brief appearance as the head of the institution.) As near as I can figure, most of the movie takes place in the disturbed woman's mind, as she remembers/daydreams making love to Paula-2 at great length, and now and then gyrates nude on an exercise machine.
And that's about it. Really.
|Carmen Montes as Paula-Prime|
Let's get to the good stuff first--Franco dedicates Paula-Paula to his longtime friend Friederich Gulda. A talented pianist and composer of both classical music and jazz, Gulda provided the score for my favorite Franco flick, the phantasmagorical and fascinating Succubus (1969). When Gulda passed away in 2000, Franco inherited many of his friend's unpublished jazz compositions. It is this music that Jess builds Paula-Paula around, and I have to say, I thought it was pretty great--in fact, I would readily buy a soundtrack recording, and put it on regular background rotation. If you like 60s-style jazz, I wager you'll dig it too. Also, while not a great actress (though to be fair she's not given much to do here), Montes has a beautiful figure reminiscent of the best-remembered 70s Eurotrash screen queens. Davis is a more modern beauty, with tattoos and piercings aplenty, which I guess is supposed to differentiate her from her alter-ego. Still, the women are as easy on the eyes as the music is on the ears.
Perhaps Franco calls this an "experience" rather than a movie because he didn't intend to tell a story. Played as a long-form music video coupling Gulda's excellent jazz with Franco's own obsession with the nude female form, maybe it'll work for some viewers. And to be fair, with its fixation on nude, writhing women and cavalier attitude toward plot, I was reminded periodically of Jess's famous 1973 film Female Vampire (aka Erotic Kill), which was less about vampirism than about Lina Romay's crotch. I didn't particularly enjoy that one either, as praised as it often is by others, so maybe some viewers will find things to like here. In any event, I'm pleased to know that, old and decrepit as he is, Jess can still get beautiful young women to disrobe for him and his tireless camera eye. But unfortunately that vicarious pleasure doesn't translate to a compelling audio-visual experience, at least for me.
|Lina Romay tries unsuccessfully to obscure a set light.|
DVD extras include three short interviews with Franco, and it has to be said, he looks BAD--palsied, chainsmoking as usual, and sometimes lying down on his couch in mid-sentence or else wracked by coughing fits. But he's still fascinating to listen to, particularly when he talks about the current state of the Spanish film industry and his views on the perceived prejudice against young people and especially women who want to make films. His introduction and discussion of Paula-Paula are less interesting, in my opinion, though it is telling that he claims to enjoy this type of movie-making because it "allows me to work quickly." Franco's always had more ideas than time or money to implement them, sometimes famously abandoning movies in mid-production to rush off and film something else, so I can see why the super-speed of video might appeal. And then again, maybe he's rushing to get as many out on film in whatever form as possible before the Reaper comes knocking. I can't fault him for that, but I just wish the result was better.
Nota bene: the film aside, Intervision put together a great DVD, and has also recently released Franco's 1973 film The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff, which the Duke snatched up for review and which, one hopes, is more representative of the Franco we know and sometimes love. So I'll look forward to hearing what His Prurience has to say about that one!
|Can't argue there|