Friday, January 10, 2014

Franco Friday #53: Sinner - Diary of a Nymphomaniac

My friend Brad said something very wise recently. He said, "Take 20 of Franco's best films and they stack up against almost any other director's best work. Take 100 of Franco's films and kill yourself." I'm only halfway to the latter part of that statement but clearly, I'm on the edge already.

Sinner: Diary of a Nymphomaniac
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Montserrat Prous, Anne Libert, Jacqueline Laurent, Kali Hansa, Howard Vernon, Manuel Pereiro
87 minutes
DVD Studio: Mondo Macabro

A beautiful young stripper picks up a man in a bar and proceeds to get him very drunk. She takes him back to his hotel room where he promptly passes out. Then she frames him for murder. Her own. The man is Mr. Ortiz (played by Manule Pereiro) and he is quickly arrested and put in jail. Ortiz pleads with his estranged wife Rosa (Jacqueline Laurent) to help him prove his innocence. Rosa discovers that the dead girl is Linda Vargas, a troubled young woman with a sad story to tell (from beyond the grave (but not in a zombified way)).

First, Rosa meets up with the Countess Anna de Monterey (played by Anne Libert), a former lover and friend of Linda's. She tells the story of how being raped by Mr. Ortiz when she was very young changed her into a nymphomaniac. Next Rosa goes to another very special friend of Linda's named Maria (Kali Hansa), a stripper and smoker of the drugs. She lets Rosa read Linda's sexy diary and it tells the wildly depressing story of her downfall.

Once again, Franco paints another portrait for us of innocence lost and once again, it's another heartbreaking venture. Sinner: Diary of a Nymphomaniac is also incredibly silly with soap opera plot machinations and narration that sounds like it was ripped from the pages of a seedy romance novel. And what film from 1973 would be complete without the demonization of marijuana and disco dancing sequences?

Of course, the intentions of the writing and direction are heartfelt and meaningful. Unlike my previous complaint about Countess Perverse, rape is not just a throwaway and pointless act; nor is it sexy. In Sinner, rape and its consequences are deadly serious. Linda is an innocent whose mental stability and outlook on life is destroyed by the cruelty of a single incident. She runs from lover to lover trying to fix something that is beyond repair.

Maybe this film should have been called Surrounded by Nymphomaniacs! Although, I think Howard Vernon may be the biggest nympho of them all! I have to tip my hat to this cast. Many of the usual suspects from Franco's early 70s stuff are here and even Yelena Samarina (of Night of the Assassins and Murder Mansion) has a small part! I get the feeling that this film was meant to star Soledad Miranda but due to her untimely death, Montserrat Prous was cast in her place. Was she to be Franco's next muse? If so, what happened? Did she get cockblocked by Lina Romay?

The musical score for Sinner is a lot of fun. It's got all the discordant jazz and acid rock that one expects from films of this era. The camerawork by Gérard Brisseau is quite good but not quite as eye catching as I'd expect from a film as lurid as this. Keep an eye out for an impossible-to-miss-cameo from Franco himself as a police detective. He looks into the camera for a split second as if he's not sure if they're still rolling or not. Priceless.

One thing I couldn't help but notice is how similar Sinner felt to another Franco film I've seen in terms of cast and locations. Lo and behold, Dolls for Sale and this film have not one, not two, but TEN common cast and crew between the two films (thank you, IMDB) which makes me have to assume they were filmed back to back.

"When I'm buried, they can write on the stone: 'One who wanted too much'."

DVD Stuff

Mondo Macabro does another magnificent job on one of their releases. Sinner looks and sounds great! There is no shortage of extras either. Stephen Thrower has two interviews: one about Sinner and one about the cinema of Jess Franco. Both are very good. There is an amazing interview with Gérard Kikoïne, film editor and sound engineer who worked on several Franco films. It's a fun interview and a must see for fans of European cult cinema.

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