Marquis de Sade: Justine (1969)

“Marquis de Sade: Justine” (1969)


space frigidity

Believe it or not, i chose to see this film after i saw Malick’s Tree of Life. And i did it not because i wanted something completely different, but because i i was looking for some similarly different approach to film. Make no mistakes. Malick’s film changed my life, this is just deliberate and utter trash. But here and there, we have directors filming what they want, away from conventions. Both rely heavily on intuition, in Malick’s case supported by a heavy baggage of study and reflexion, in Franco’s case, supported only by the pure pleasure of filming, or else filming as a living attitude.

Trash films are great, because for a few moments we step outside any convention whatsoever. Sex is a given fact in most of these films, it’s called exploitation, because we are supposed to be “exploring” bodies, and sex as voyeurs. I would argue that i don’t know where that differs from most of our mainstream these days and for a while now, but that’s a different talk. Anyway, what we do have a certain guarantee that, within the production constraints, we’ll see what some guy or a reduced number of people wanted to do. That’s reassuring.

Here we have probably the highest budget of any Franco film, probably that in which he was more constrained, at least in therms of casting. The result is not so visceral, not so crazily hallucinating as some bits of others films can be, but there are some rewarding features:

-self-reflective filmmaking: Kinski’s character writes the story of both sisters as we go along. So we have a filmmaker making a film about a writer (an imprisoned one) who invents 2 parallel narratives about 2 helpless sisters, who are supposed to mirror 2 distinct postures: one is malicious, the other learns to take pleasure out of humiliation. Justine is the one we follow the most;

-in her path along humiliation, intrigue, and all kinds of sexual covet by all kinds of people, Justine walks around a number of sets. Some are forgettable, mere trees in incompetently filmed bushes. Some are just ordinary, some are well chosen places in Barcelona (S.Felipe Neri square is the most seductive of them), and some are Gaudí. This is interesting, because the cinematographers, maybe Franco himself, cared about these sets. Generally speaking, the photography in this film is quite good for what we are used to in these films. In Gaudí’s places, there is the intention to film space (notice the highly denounced use of wide angle lenses in some places, to the point of distorting the limits and focus of the image), and, in the parks’ scenes, to film the promenade along the several arches. Sex and space, that’s a fun and rewarding idea. But Romina Power doesn’t have a clue, and all falls to a walk in the park, utterly unrewarding in its biggest promise.

My opinion: 2/5

This comment on IMDb


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