Groovy & Wild Films from Around the World

Friday, May 04, 2018

#FF – Franco Friday (part 2)

Okay, so I do love the film writings of Roger Ebert. I love his book “Your Movie Sucks” and some of his film reviews – specifically for Eyes Wide Shut, Blow-Up, and 2010: The Year We Made Contact, helped me to understand the multiple sub-levels of cinema and its beautiful language, and how that language is used to communicate, and at times, to mess with an audience. But I was, admittedly, slightly dismayed when I inadvertently came across a review Roger Ebert had written on Umberto Lenzi's 60s giallo-thriller Paranoia, in which he describes Lenzi's film as the “second worst film” he'd seen that year – the film in first place for worst of the year...? Jess Franco's Succubus. Okay, also admittedly, I could see where Ebert might have been coming from at that point in time, and at that place in the cinema culture of Chicago's movie theatres... Ebert had stated that Only the haunting memory of 'Succubus' prevents me from naming 'Paranoia' the worst movie of the year... 'Succubus' was a flat-out bomb. It left you stunned and reeling. There was literally nothing of worth in it. Even the girl was ugly. The color looked like it had been scraped off the bottom of an old garbage boat. The acting resembled a catatonic state. The script (ha!) had the flair of a baggage tag. It was possibly the worst movie of all time. So no wonder it's in its fifth week in neighborhood theaters, after rolling up record grosses in its first run. No matter what the censor board thinks, the Chicago proletariat knows what it likes.”

I would think that given some time to reflect back on this review (impossible now), that the usually intelligent and insightful critic would cringe at his remarks on the “ugly girl” starring in Succubus, who happened to be the androgynous and striking beauty Janine Reynaud (Two Undercover Angels; Kiss Me, Monster!). Also, clearly lost on the cinematically critical mind of a young Roger Ebert in the 1960s was the whole idea and cinematic concepts of European arthouse genre cinema; which is striking unto itself, although I'm admittedly reflecting on this with the distance of decades of swimming and rippling changes in cultural and artistic representations and acceptances that have come between the now and the original American release of one of Jess Franco's artistic masterpieces. 


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