Monday, December 29, 2014

Paula-Paula (2010)

Jess Franco’s name may be synonymous with many things to both fans and detractors alike but of the most crucial and defining aspects regarding Franco’s career was his adamant belief in artistic freedom. Not just simply freedom from censorship although that was certainly critical, but the freedom to film any idea without compromise or pandering to any group. Franco knew the importance of having final cut probably better than any other director after having his films meddled with by producers and distributors over the years and having multiple versions of his films exist. Regardless of the fact that Franco’s later period digital films are some of if not the most unpopular films he ever made, the advent of digital video technology not only made the process of filmmaking easier but Franco was finally given the complete creative control he always strived for and despite the fact that there were still certain cases of a film getting two different versions released, the films from this digital period represent Franco at his most pure with no filters. Perhaps no film of Franco’s better represents this freedom better than 2010’s Paula-Paula. Shot almost entirely in Franco and Lina Romay’s own apartment, Paula-Paula is easily Franco’s most experimental, inaccessible and alienating film and its also a film that would eventually mark the end of an era as it sadly features the final screen appearance of Lina Romay.

Paula (Carmen Montes), an exotic nightclub performer is arrested after the murder of her lover and fellow nightclub performer who also happens to be named Paula (Paula Davis). After being questioned by detective Alma Pereira (Lina), Paula is left on her own and begins to recount in her head the events that led her to where she is now, although in her delirious mental state Paula’s memory quickly grows increasingly surreal and twisted with the line between truth and fantasy becoming more and more blurry.

There seems to be two schools of though when it comes to Paula-Paula, that the film is either a hallucinatory glimpse into a disturbed psyche or Franco simply messing around with a digital camera for about 67 minutes. In all actuality, its a bit of both. Paula-Paula represents Franco at his most abstract, setting aside narrative almost immediately in favor of letting the visual take over. Franco claimed the film was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which actually makes sense in context yet this is a film where narrative only begins to matter after the film has ended. Its really a fascinating way of telling a story, or rather not telling a story, at least during the course of the actual film. Again, Franco shot the majority of the film in his own apartment and in some ways the film could be considered a full length version of a psychedelic nightclub performance seen in so many of Franco’s films set to a brilliant jazz soundtrack. The film was scored using recordings by Friedrich Gulda who of course composed the music for Franco’s Succubus (1967). Franco was given a CD of recordings by Gulda’s estate and conceived  the film around the music. “Free jazz filmmaking” so to speak, a label which becomes even more accurate when considering the films excessive visuals with Franco constantly digitally altering and distorting the imagery which recalls the digital experimentation seen in films like Vampire Blues (1999) and Vampire Junction (2001).

Franco made clear his mentality behind the film during the three interview segments featured on Intervision’s DVD. The first segment is a simple introduction for the film but the second and third are where it really gets interesting. The second interview in particular as it features Franco giving his opinions at the time on contemporary filmmaking and its really inspiring to hear Franco praise the younger generation of enthusiastic filmmakers who are doing it for the love of cinema just as he did. The third segment is Franco discussing Paula-Paula and again, its inspiring just to listen to his excitement over the film. Franco praises the cast especially Carmen Montes and rightfully so as Montes was one of Franco’s greatest discoveries during his later period and proved herself more than worthy to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Lina and Soledad Miranda. Franco even goes so far as to claim that Paula-Paula is his strangest film! In a sense its hard to argue with the man. Paula-Paula isn’t the type of film that’s going to bring a Franco detractor over to the other side and it has the potential to drive away even those who defended Franco’s One Shot films. It really doesn't matter though as the spirit  in which it was made and the fact that it was Lina’s last film ultimately make Paula-Paula one of Franco’s most important films.


  1. Enjoyed this commentary! I just added some Franco films to my watchlist...

    1. Thanks Daniel. Happy travels on your Franco journey!