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.