Doriana Grey (Jess Franco / West Germany-Switzerland, 1976):
(Die Marquise von Sade)

The German title references De Sade while the English one evokes Wilde, neither of whom has much to do with the hallucinatory splitting of sex and emotion, which is Jess Franco's through and through. The point of departure is the erotic bloodsucking of Vampyros Lesbos and Female Vampire, lifted from metaphor to outright pornacopia and embodied by Lina Romay in rosy, diaphanous veils and tottering platform heels. The Marquise dwells in a jungle castle with her mute servant (Ramon Ardid) as the only companion, an image of her swanning down a lush trail is repeated thrice in an illusory intimation of Cocteau's Orphée. A feminist journalist (Monica Simms) arrives for an interview, praising her "liberated" wiles: "You radiate the charm of youth and the melancholy of experience. Most admirable." Romay: "Maybe..." The heroine saps the lifeforce out of visitors through sex, yet there's no pleasure in it -- her twin sister experiences the shuddering feelings and spreads and writhes and rubs in her cell at Dr. Orloff's sanitarium, where silk stockings have replaced straitjackets. Franco lingers on streams of saliva following a vigorous bout of cunningulus, slides in and out of focus as the camera approaches a pair of tangled lips, and fashions a screen-filling cave from his leading lady's hirsute twat. His art is a liquid beauty that manifests itself almost diffidently through the grindhouse grime, as when Romay arises from her divan and ambles forward as if underwater, and the transit of assorted fields of light becomes luminously apparent as she crosses the room. Alienation trumps Eros even amid money shots: The self is destroyed rather than united as carnal halves meet, the Marquise's marbled onanistic sanctuary is transformed into a tomb. With Peggy Markoff, and Martine Stedil.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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