Tuesday, April 2, 2013

R.I.P. Jess Franco (1930-2013)

This morning began with the horrible news that the ultimate cinematic rebel, the legendry Jess Franco passed away after suffering a stroke last week. He was 82 years old, almost one month away from turning 83, and still going at it behind the camera, with his last film Al Pereira Vs. the Alligator Ladies (2013) having it’s Spanish premier 2 weeks ago, his first film to have a theatrical run in his home country of Spain in over 20 years. To be perfectly honest I’m still somewhat processing all of this but I simply cannot say nothing. I’ve made no secret of my admiration of Franco and his films on here having covered several ever since starting this site. To me, Franco was one of those filmmakers that completely changed the way I view films and what could be accomplished within the medium. His films are more than entertaining, they’re inspiring. Simply put, when I watch a Franco film, that’s what makes me want to make films.

Franco may have had his detractors but I defy all the naysayer’s to downplay the passion the man had for film, something that’s incredibly hard to do when you leave behind a body of work that includes well over 200 films. It wasn’t uncommon for Franco to juggle 2, sometimes even 3 productions at the same time, in 1973 alone he managed to complete 12 feature films, some of which have gone on to become some of his most memorable such as Female Vampire, Countess Perverse, The Other Side of the Mirror and Plaisir à Trois amongst others. Obviously when you work at that kind of a pace you’re bound to slip up every now and then and even the most hardcore Francophiles and even the man himself (he was his harshest critic) will admit that he has his fair share of misfires along the way. Even still, no matter the reasons certain films turned out the way they did, the one constant that remained in every single one of his films was his enthusiasm, which I think is safe to say was second to none.

A lots been said over the years about Franco's output, and his work is certainty not for everyone. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that even his more accessible films are too be considered acquired taste. If it’s not for you it’s totally understandable. If however, you’re lucky enough to have his films resonate with you even remotely the way they affected me, you’ll jump in and never look back, always wanting to add more and more to you’re Franco collection. I consider myself lucky to be alive during a time when Franco was still making films the only way he knew how, his way without compromise, and also for the fact that he knew there was a legion of devoted fans that were seeing his films in a whole new light thanks in part to companies like Blue Underground, Synapse, Mondo Macabro, Severin and Redemption giving his films more than deserving DVD treatments which have introduced a whole new generation of fans to Franco.

There is now a huge void in the world of cult and genre cinema never to be filled now that the maestro is gone, yet the devoted will never forget Jess and his films nor his one of a kind directorial style and the quirky rolls he often cast himself in for his films, not to mention the fact that the man was an incredibly talented jazz musician that, along with his wife and muse the late, very great Lina Romay who sadly passed last February, possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz music. You hear this all the time when someone passes but in this case the saying couldn’t more appropriate, there really will never be another Jess Franco. The man and his unique films will continue to be an inspiration and the dictionary definition of what truly original and visionary auteur filmmaking is all about.

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