Friday, February 18, 2011

Les cauchemars naissent la nuit (1970)

It is difficult to discern what Les cauchemars naissent la nuit is about, in as much as it is to discern what genre Jess Franco's film falls into. The latter is not important (but erotica is probably the answer); and as to the former, here is a plot description: Diana Lorys is Anna, a nightclub dancer, who meets Cincia (Colette Jack), who invites Anna to her home. Cincia tells Anna that her talent and beauty are above and beyond where she is working and makes a vague promise to Anna that she can make her a bigger success. Anna agrees and soon finds comfort in Cincia's home. A local doctor, Paul (Paul Muller), is eventually summoned to Cincia's home under the assumption that Anna is ill. Apparently, Anna has been having nightmares--those of her killing people or waking up not knowing what she has done, with someone dead in her bedroom. Les cauchemars naissent la nuit is, as a mystery, reminiscent of Umberto Lenzi's Orgasmo (Paranoia) (1969) in the respect that Anna's reality is being manipulated by those around her. Anna's subsequent madness is borne from this manipulation. The key figure in this manipulation would have to be Colette Jack's Cincia, but during the nightclub sequence when Cincia first sees Anna, it would appear that Anna actually seduces Cincia. Anna's striptease sequence is shot in Franco-style (aka very lovingly) (aided by José Climent's photography and a sexy score by Bruno Nicolai); and it almost seems that Cincia is compelled to have Anna in her home. Lorys's Anna remains the focus of Les cauchemars naissent la nuit, and this makes it difficult to discern what is going on around her. Franco shows many an emotional scene where Anna wants to flee Cincia's home, and Anna often runs into the arms of Muller's Paul. She continually asks for help. Paul, not uncaring, lends a sympathetic ear, yet his ultimate advice is often just "go home and rest." More telling perhaps about Les cauchemars naissent la nuit is where this falls in Jess Franco's filmography: it is only slightly removed in time from his previous Eugénie (1970); and his subsequent film would be Christina, princesse de l'érotisme (1971). It is very easy to see Les cauchemars naissent la nuit as an experimental, transitional film: Les cauchemars has the intense subjective sexual obsession of Eugénie combined with the ethereal, almost random, characters of Christina. Jack Taylor appears late in the film as one of Cincia’s lovers; and when Anna and Taylor’s character interact, it is often composed of poetic, playful dialogue. Taylor’s character doesn’t seem real, and if he’s helping Anna, then it is very cryptic. Finally, giving a very precious appearance in a small performance is Soledad Miranda as a beautiful girl peering out of a window across the street from Cincia’s house. She has dreams that she shares with her lover of coming into a lot of money (this is important to the plot?). Miranda is dead sexy--Franco composes her primarily nude wearing only thigh-high boots. Franco had an intense obsession for Miranda, and it undoubtedly shows.Les cauchemars naissent la nuit is a lithe, meandering, arty, poetic film. I tend to prefer my cinema like this--a film which has really nowhere in particular to go in terms of story, so its imagery becomes prominent and, in the case of Franco, seductive. A minor entry, perhaps, in Franco’s filmography, because of the films preceding and following it. However, here’s some facts to conclude this post taken from essential Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco:

Only released in Belgium, this variation of the Miss Muerte story (a nightclub dancer unconsciously commits murders for somebody controlling her) has become virtually invisible since this limited release. Franco used the same story three years later for his own production of Los Ojos Siniestros del Dr. Orlof. Local critics writing about Les cauchemars naissent la nuit found that “the vague screenplay in the crime novel vein was only a pretext for showing scenes of a dubious nature with excessive nudity.” It is also true that Belgium is probably the most prudish country in Europe: even sex magazines are sold with stickers to cover genitalia! When asked (in Vampirella n° 13) what had been his smallest budget to date (in 1973) Franco named this film.

(from Obsession, ed. Lucas Balbo & Peter Blumenstock, Graf Haufen & Frank Trebbin Publishing, Munich, Germany: 1993, p.77)
Les cauchemars naissent la nuit has been released by Media Blasters/Shriek Show on DVD as Nightmares Come at Night. Also, check out Aaron’s review at his killer blog, The Bone Throne.


Alex B. said...

Thankfully, this film of 'the Miranda period' hasn't been discussed to death yet.
Diana Lorys looks a million times more gorgeous in Les Cauchemars than she did in The Awful Doctor Orloff, imho.
The opening credits sequence composed of stills is one of my favourite Franco moments.
This 'small' film is somehow more engaging than similar cheap low-key films Jess did in the 80's for Golden Films International, such as The Sexual Story of O, for example.
Those I find to be a waste of time.

Hans A. said...

@Alex--yes Lorys is quite beautiful and seductive. She easily captured Franco's eye, and there is no shortage of shots of her.

I quite like a bit of the Golden Films era. Are there any that you particularly care for?

Alex B. said...

I don't mind THE INCONFESSABLE ORGIES OF EMMANUELLE. It has a nice wax museum scene, but overall it's still lethargic.
I dislike these films because there's no enigma about them. It's not that they are bare bones in terms of budget (cheapness I don't ever mind), it's lack of any ambition or drive that puts me off.
I own several of them on DVD but hardly ever revisit them. THE SEXUAL STORY OF O puts me to sleep literally after 20 minutes.
MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD sounds nice as a concept, but is padded with some really stupid scenes.
GEMIDOS DE PLACER looks alright, but I haven't seen it properly yet.

A.D. said...

Alex: Thanks for mentioning the opening credits, I remember liking them quite a bit but forgetting to mention it in my review for this film.

Hans: First and foremost, thanks for the shout out and the linkage. I appreciate it!

Great review here as always. We seem to be on the same page as far as the content of the film, except you obviously enjoy it much more than I did. I did like it, but I think it's safe to say that Franco doesn't make the type of movies that I'm really into in the first place. I do plan on pursuing more of his work, though, since he's a director whose films I have been putting off for a long time now.

Hans A. said...

@Aaron--you're welcome, man. I appreiciate your work and it was your review that made me have another look-see of this one.

@Alex--in terms of Golden Films, I'd like to know what you think of Macumba Sexual. It's a very good film of the era.

Neil Fulwood said...

Great review, Hans. Reminds me how little of Franco's work I've seen (or maybe that's just comparative given his prodigious output).

This one sounds fascinating, though, and with the top flight eye candy provided by Diana Lorys and Soledad Miranda, I'll certainly make an effort to track it down.

Hans A. said...

Cheers, Neil. Thanks for the kind words. I hope you check it out and share your thoughts.

John Connor said...

Is it just me, but whenever i watch this movie, i have the impression that the Soledad Miranda scenes are somewhat disconnected from the rest of the film, as if they belong to another Franco project. With Franco this is, of course, a distinct possibility. Still, any addition of the tragic Miranda to a movie is a bonus, making this an even more dreamlike experience.
Thanx for the review, Hans.