Monday, November 30, 2009

Jess Franco's Sex Is Crazy (El sexo está loco) (1981)

During his interview included on the Severin disc of Macumba Sexual (1983), Jess Franco talks about his return to his native Spain after making myriad films in other European countries. He intimates that Spanish culture was certainly different in the era after Francisco Franco's reign ended. The authors of Immoral Tales write about the changing culture in Spain; its effect on cinema; and Jess Franco's role during this period:


As the demand for erotic sex films went up, the gap between films became much shorter. Much of the finance came from Spanish companies like Golden Films who were eager to cash in on the softening up of censorship that took place after the death of the Spanish dictator, General Franco...After Franco's death the production of softcore comedies increased, censorship became slightly more liberal, and film makers were allowed to show nipples on the screen for the first time...The next stage was the development of the "S," or slightly more explicit softcore film. Film-makers still weren't allowed to show penetration, but they produced a wide range of sexploitation films for the home market, supplemented by imports. As one of the premier low budget European sexfilim makers, this was a good period for Franco.


This period would produce Franco's Sex Is Crazy (El sexo está loco) (1981) which thematically is both a celebration and a playful commentary on this liberal period in Spanish cinema and culture.
"'Sex is Crazy' is a piece of mayhem that fully illustrates Franco's bubbling creativity. Eschewing any plot discipline, Franco has fun mystifying the spectator by presenting the story as an erotic nightclub floorshow, which is imagined by a lonely wife in a 'quadrilateral' marriage, who is in turn an actress in the film inside the film. Are you still with me? Don't worry, I didn't understand it the first time I saw it!" (from Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco)
One of the most creative and playful sequences begins with Lina Romay and Robert Foster's characters laying in bed. Romay's character is frisky, but Foster rolls over for more sleep. Nude, she walks to the glass doors and looks out upon beautiful seaside scenery. Romay's character walks into frame from behind the camera and outside (in cute detail, Franco realizes from behind the camera that Romay's bum is not completely in the frame and gives the camera a slight pan down to correct. Whether it was an intentional shot or not is unknown, but it wasn't removed in editing.) After sitting amongst the rocks on the seaside, Romay is visited by Foster who embraces her before the two begin some lovemaking. Another couple (Lynn Endersson and Antonio Rebollo) spies Romay and Foster and become aroused which in turn leads to their lovemaking (whereupon another couple spies Endersson and Rebollo which in turn...). Beyond Franco's signature voyeuristic motif, this humorous sequence resonates louder: an overwhelming sense that "coupling" is literally in the air and no longer does the sexuality have to be hidden (from neither the camera nor in the culture).
This scene concludes with Romay and Foster meeting Endersson and Rebollo. Endersson and Romay's characters begin a dialogue. Endersson and Romay break from their characters (into other characters possibly) and question each other as to whom is supposed to deliver a certain line. Franco steps into frame from behind the camera to direct the actresses and resolve the dilemma (only to exit the frame in the static shot to resume filming). The meta element of Sex is Crazy is as playful as its themes, and primarily upon what Franco is riffing is erotic cinema and its participants (and its burgeoning home market). More than once, Franco behind the camera is shown in a mirror. In one, Romay sits at the mirror while her lover exits the shower. Romay's character accuses her lover of cheating, and the two actors play the scene seriously (Romay as accusatory and her lover as defensive). Franco behind the camera is in center frame during the static shot, and his voice is heard by the viewer when he asks the two to redo the scene in a lighter manner. The two redo the scene, the dialogue is almost the same, the tone is different, but one thing remains constant: both attractive actors are still nude. One character, Rosalinda, is shown briefly from time to time laying upon a bed, as the camera tracks from her head to her toes or vice versa. She is always accompanied by a voice-over narration that never fails to comment that she is the producer's girlfriend and how excited everyone is that she will be the next star. While the scenes with Rosalinda are inserted into the film seemingly randomly, when she makes a pivotal appearance in a later scene, Franco reveals that the Rosalinda scenes are a set up for a clever joke about erotic actors and drama. Needless to say, there is quite a bit of flesh on display in Sex is Crazy, and nearly all the scenes in the film would fall into the category of (or wouldn't be unusual within) erotic cinema. The scenes range from cold and contrived, like the opening "alien nightclub" scene, to intimate ones, as with Endersson and Romay alone (in a parody of the "swinging" scene), but above all, the scenes are mostly bizarre (which drives the humor).
Low-budget and creative, Sex is Crazy is another oddity from Jess Franco. It has been recently released on DVD by label Sinful Mermaid. Buy it here.

2 comments:

Mr.LargePackage said...

Really nice review. This one is too easy. And that is large and in charge.

Hans A. said...

Thnx, Mr. LP. You're holidays, from recent comments must have been large and in charge.