Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Diary of a Nymphomaniac (1972)

Linda Vargas (Montserrat Prous), nymphomaniac.

It begins, in proper Jess Franco fashion, with a strip act. Bathed in a red glow, two women caress each other to a ritualistic, driving rhythm. One woman---the younger looking of the two---stares intently into the audience. After the show, she directly approaches a middle-aged man. Several bottles of champagne later, the drunk and smitten man exits the club with the woman. In a rented room, as they sloppily remove their clothing, the same driving rhythm from her stage performance fades into the soundtrack. This is not a scene of an awkward man fumbling with a prostitute---it's a ritual. Moments after climaxing, the woman carefully pulls a knife and runs it across her throat, collapsing on the spent man.

Murder or suicide?

With a flashback structure reminiscent of Citizen Kane, this melodrama is the tale of a wife's investigation into her husband's alleged murder of a stripper-prostitute named Linda Vargas. What straight-laced Mrs. Ortiz discovers is the life of a damaged soul with too much love to give. Beyond being treated to a garish title, frequent nude scenes, and counter-culture kitsch, Franco also constructs a fully satisfying character arc. The tattered edges of the extremely modest production (far from the most minimal of Franco's oeuvre) only serve to heighten the confessional nature of the story. Like the glimpses of Linda's scrawled diary itself, this film rides on the emotions of humiliation, arousal, and revenge.

The film chronicles Linda's varied sexual relationships from an early molestation on a ferris wheel (perpetrated by Mr. Ortiz from the opening scene), which is filmed like a self-contained experimental film (the fading in and out, and overlapping of music as the carnival ride dips up and down is masterful), to her encounter with a cold, clinical, and dominating doctor (Franco staple and symbol of European decadence Howard Vernon!). Along the way, Linda proves herself too passionate for her lesbian affair with The Countess de Monterey (Anne Libert), while the Countess' boy toy collapses at his wife's feet when he is caught in bed with our protagonist. With each blow dealt to her, Linda develops into more of a nymphomaniac. She outlines her dependence on sex in her writings:
"When I'm depressed, as I often am, I think of an enormous erection or the moist, warm tongue of a young girl. And I feel better when the beautiful little pussy is opened up slowly and grows moist. That's when we really live. Everything else is meaningless and dead."
These explicit ramblings breakdown the chaste Mrs. Ortiz, who in a later scene is seduced by Linda's fellow stripper, Maria. With Linda's voice in her head----"He must pay!"---Mrs. Ortiz disposes of the diary, and with it the evidence to acquit her husband. Justice is served.

Jacqueline Laurent (as Mrs. Ortiz) is much less crabby
here than she would be in the disturbing Lorna, the Exorcist,
which Franco filmed during the same period.

1 comment:

Robert Monell said...

Terrific blog, Adam! You can't go wrong with PRC and Jess Franco!