Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Venus in Furs

"Time is like the ocean, you can't hold onto it," so muses the prophetic Jimmy, a jazz trumpeter searching for his buried horn on the shores of the Black Sea in Istanbul. Who knows why he's buried his instrument in the sand, he's freaking out, and then he find the horn and starts playing. Then he runs in slo-mo to a body that has washed up on the sand. She's blond, she's deader than a doornail, she's naked, and she's a hottie. So begins Jess Franco's Venus in Furs. 

Some have said, or at least for some reason I remember someone at sometime saying something about this movie, I know, I'm so specific, that Venus in Furs is Jess Franco's most accessible work. I'll give it that - it's a bit easier to follow, is less violent, and less sexually gratuitous than the titles by Franco I've been exposed to as of late. But that doesn't make it any better. I've also heard that if you give Franco some time and you have some patience, his movies will start paying off. I'm getting there. 

So we meet Jimmy in the opening sequence where he finds the dead cutie. Then Franco throws us a bone and allows us to go back and see how it is Jimmy knows her and the events that unfold from there. It seems Jimmy is a musician for these hot jetset parties that take place all the time in Istanbul. Well, it's at one of these parties that he witnesses Ahmed, a millionaire playboy played by Klaus Kinski, Capp, a perverted old art dealer, and Olga, a young and up and coming fashion photographer sexually abuse and eat the flesh of Wanda, the dead woman that Jimmy finds washed up on the beach. He has some scruples about witnessing this wild and crazy scene but decides it's not really worth it to have such scruples, because if that's their 'bag' (his word), so be it. I mean, everybody's fucked up in the end, right? 

So after Jimmy sees this and finds Wanda washed up on the beach, he freaks out again and flees for Rio, because there's nothing like Rio during Carnivale to allow someone some peace and quiet. Here we meet Rita, Jimmy's main squeeze in Rio, who is by far, the laziest lounge singer I have ever seen. Instead of standing up while performing, she rolls around on the club floor. But she's good for Jimmy, he's at a standstill with is trumpet playing and she encourages him to play again. Jimmy feels happy for a hot sec with Rita, she apparently listens to all his grumbling about the past and he does get his career going again at her urging, until.....

One night, he's up on stage playing his trumpet and Wanda walks into the bar! There's some dreamy wonky camera action and Jimmy follows Wanda. I must mention here that the interiors and exteriors are superb. Everything is red and purple and the lighting is exquisite. I loved watching this for this aspect alone. Also, there isn't much dialogue up until this point. We've had to rely on Jimmy's narration, which is almost noir-ish - think a dame walked in with legs up to there, blah blah. He's blatant, but it works. Anyway, back to the action...

Jimmy realizes this is the same chick he fished out of the ocean back in Istanbul. He knows she's dead, and delivers the following profound line, "How can you run from a dead person unless you're dead yourself." Truer words never spoken. So he follows Wanda, like I said, and she urges him to go away, but her eyes are totally giving him that come hither, and they end up in the sack together. The first time they do it there are these totally creepy paintings holding court in the room and the camera keeps zooming in on them. Think cherubs and weird Victorian looking children all smiles but with some spacing in the teeth area. Totally weird and spooky. Then Jimmy goes back to his sure thing, Rita, and she gets all needy and tells him how alone she is and he, typical male that he is, assures her everything is fine. 

Okay, so far we've been getting to know Jimmy and blah blah, but what Venus in Furs really is a a revenge movie. In case you couldn't tell already for my stellar description of events (haha), Wanda is back from the dead to right the wrongs against her (read: her murder), namely to kill Ahmed, Capp, and Olga in super sexy ways. And kill them in super sexy ways she does! It's actually downright beautiful. She shows up at Capps house and dispatches him only after enticing him to suck her toes. The music is jarring, she's unbelievably seductive and while the pace is languid, the tension is build effectively. Same goes for when she offs Olga. She has Olga take nudie pics of her, then the two women make out and explore each other. Then Wanda reveals her true form to Olga, her dead form, and Olga freaks out and slits her wrists in the bathtub, but only after placing two candelabras on either side of Wanda. Oh, and this is all after Wanda molests a Venus de Milo statue while a man paints her face as Jimmy's drunken boss drops feathers from a pillow on her. 

So that leaves Ahmed, which is by far, the strangest killing in the movie. I must've missed something, maybe, who knows, but she goes to kill him, she's all dressed up in her killing outfit (the titular fur, along with panties and garters and that's pretty much it), and he tells her some story about a Sultan who was enamored with a slave girl so he gave her command of his kingdom for twenty-four hours with super sexy results. Then he's dead. Just like that. I swear for once, I was sober during the viewing of this particular death scene. 

So Wanda's dispatched her killers and there's nothing left to do but to return to Jimmy's house, because he's still sexually obsessed with her. Then the cops show up in response to Ahmed's murder and Jimmy and Wanda run from them in this really fabulous red convertible. Wanda's makeup is impeccable, as it has been throughout the movie, all eyeliner cattails and blues and purples and whites. I wish my makeup looked half as good on a daily basis as Wanda's does. It's totally the look I emulate.  And Wanda does the inevitable, she returns to her grave. That's not the ending though, I'll leave that 'shocker' for you to discover yourselves.  

I must say, I totally enjoyed Venus in Furs, not only for the great retro makeup, fashion, interiors, and music, but because Wanda really plays the hell outta Jimmy. She totally uses him and he totally lets her. He's duped by a dead girl! And the way she kills everybody, she just owns it! She's totally expressionless, she has a job to do, and she kinda smiles wryly after the victim gets what they deserve. And she uses her sexuality to get what she wants. Yes, it's Wanda that suffers in the beginning but really asserts herself as a female throughout the rest of the film. Although, there is a weird character regression when Jimmy first catches her making out with Olga. He's pissed and he yells at her about it (funny, I always thought guys liked seeing their girl make out with another hot female) and she apologizes and starts crying and runs off. Perhaps that's just more of her ruse, keep him guessing, so she can perpetuate what she need to perpetuate. Like I mentioned, it's not as sexually explicit as some of Franco's other work, but what it lacks in sex, it makes up for in atmosphere. Recommended viewing, especially for new Franco-philes, such as myself. 

And in unrelated news, I answered the phone at work the other night, and this lady was like, I want to make a reservation. I'm like, ok, how many people? Ok, and the name, and her name was totally Milligan. She spelled it for me and everything. And of course, I couldn't stop thinking about Andy. Unrelated but I had to get it out there. 


  1. wow, I really dont remember shit from this one. I need to watch it again.

  2. Yeah, it's a good one - while not as overtly sexual as some of his other movies - it's still pretty hot!