Friday, January 21, 2011

DVD REVIEW: Paula-Paula (2010)


LABEL: InterVision Picture Corp.
REGION CODE: Region Free
RATING: Unrated
DIRECTOR: Jesus "Jess" Franco
CAST: Paula Davis, Carmen Montes, Lina Romay

InterVision Picture Corp. is a newly launched niche cult and exploitation DVD label whose initial salvo of releases are from the Spanish master of Eurosleaze - Jess Franco. Beginning with the "lost" film THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. OLOFF (1973) and Franco's "lesbian Jekyll and Hyde fever dream" called PAULA-PAULA (2010). Up next are two films from Ozploitation soft-core auteur pioneer John D. Lamond, the director of FELICITY (1979). Lamond's THE ABC OF LOVE AND SEX: AUSTRALIA STYLE (1978) and AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK (1974) will be coming to DVD with brand new transfers. I'm anxious to see what else lies awaiting release in Gold's 850 plus film vault. The mind reels...

PLOT: Alma Pereira is a female police officer investigating the murder of an exotic dancer at a sleazy club in Malaga, Spain. Called to the Flamingo Club in a back alley of Antofagasta she confronts the prime suspect, Paula, a friend of the victim. After a brief Q+A the balance of the film shows what happened in the interval leading up to the killing, which turns out to be a crime of passion. Or is it all in the mind of Paula?

THE FILM: I'm only just beginning to enter the lurid world of the legendary Spanish filmmaker Jess Franco and I was excited to see what the master of Eurosleaze had in store for us in the year 2010 after 200 plus films. So what's Franco got for us? Well, first off you should realize this is not an average film with a linear narrative. It's being touted as an "An AudioVisual Experience" which it is - then again, isn't every film since the first talkie an audio-visual experience? From what I've been able to glean after some close scrutiny and some internet reading we have Paula (Carmen Montes, the star of Jess Franco's SNAKEWOMAN) in the main role. She  is an erotic dancer who has been arrested for the murder of another dancer also named Paula (Paula Davis). Paula only shares the same name but is not an visual twin/doppelganger ala THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (1991). Once taken-in for questioning she in interviewed by Alma Pereira (Lina Romay of Jess Franco's THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. OLAFF also out on InterVision). She's not forthcoming with the answers though, she's a few tacos short of a combination plate. From there we see fragments of what may have transpired leading up to the point of the murder as seen through Paula's mind's eye. Maybe. This shit was confusing. What it basically boils down to is a fairly trippy and artsy striptease followed by  20 minute lesbian sex scene culminating in a baffling and anti-climactic murder with a loose-narrative prologue. Aside from the lurid appeal of a tasty striptease and some girl-on-girl  action this was a bit of a slog for me.

Franco makes the assertion that the inspiration for PAULA-PAULA came from Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll/Hyde. There's some tiny hint of such a things with some odd mirror and digital effects works but that's really stretching it. If I hadn't of read it in the press kit I don't think I would have made this connection, but I did so there it is.

One thing I can say about this film is that the jazz score provided by the late Austrian composer Friedrich Gulda (who scored Franco's SUCCUBUS/NECRONOMICON) is brilliant. The films serves more as a erotic visual backdrop to the brilliant score. A bit of a role reversal here as the film serves as a backdrop to the score. It should be noted that the music was not scored specifically for the film and was gifted to Franco by the children of Gulda after the composer's death - perhaps the films is a tribute to the composer's score. Now that's interesting.

DVD: The film is presented a 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a Spanish Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack with optional English subtitles. The transfer seems to accurately represent the digital video  cinematography and is augmented by some artsy digital effects wizardly. The Spanish dialogue seems a bit buried int he mix throughout but the amazing jazz score sounds mighty fine indeed. Bonus content includes an introduction and two interviews with Franco. The introduction to the film was recorded mere moments after the initial filming of PAULA-PAULA and Franco seems quite excited about the project. The other interviews have Franco discussing the state of filmmaking, the music and cast of PAULA-PAULA all of which I found more intriguing than the film.

- Introduction by Jess Franco (1:24)
- Jess Franco on Contemporary Filmmaking (17:43)
- Jess Franco on PAULA-PAULA (8:30)

VERDICT: Thanks be to InterVision Picture Corp for making this available for the Region 1 Franco fanatics. PAULA-PAULA (2010) works better as an odd extended music video or video art piece than an narrative filmin my opinion. Not a recommend unless you're a Jess Franco completest. During the interviews Franco suggests this may be one of 2 or 3 of his weirdest films. Agreed.
** (2 out of 5 stars)