Saturday, 26 January 2008

Necronomicon (AKA Succubus, 1968)

Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden, probably better known under its US release title of Succubus, was one of the first Jess Franco movies I saw, when I first discovered everyone’s favourite exploitation auteur a few years ago. It impressed me enormously at the time, and seeing it second time I’m even more impressed. This film, along with Venus in Furs and Vampyros Lesbos, sees Franco at his most self-consciously arty. This is the story of Lorna, a stripper who does a kinky act at a club in Berlin. The S&M aspects of the act start to bleed into her life outside the club. Franco describes the movie as a study in paranoia, and it certainly captures the feel of paranoia extremely well. Reality and delusion become inextricably mixed, and it’s increasingly unclear exactly whose delusions we’re seeing. It’s packed with bizarre and disturbing imagery and with overheated eroticism. There are moments that seem silly, but then dreams seem pretty silly anyway so it doesn’t really matter. In fact it captures that element of the silly and incongruous that is often the thing that tells us that we’re dreaming. So having the psychiatrist pick up a model of a pig and then ask Lorna what she thinks of pachyderms makes sense in the garbled world of dreams. There are moments that go close to kitsch but somehow he gets away with it – the scene with Lorna and the mannequins, for example, which manages to be genuinely erotic and disturbing. Janine Reynaud is extraordinary as Lorna. Jack Taylor’s detached non-acting style of acting adds just the right touch of alienation, and the result is a heady fever dream of sex and madness. Very little is actually explained in this movie. If you like your movies neatly wrapped up at the end you’ll hate this one, but then if you like your movies comfortingly conventional you probably won’t get past the first ten minutes. This one and Venus in Furs remain my favourite Franco movies.

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