Paula-Paula (2010)

Alma Pereira (Lina Romay) is a female police officer [cf Al Pereira in 1972’s LES ERBRANLEES {Howard Vernon) or Antonio Mayans in the 1982 BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO, etc] investigating the murder of an exotic dancer at a sleazy club in Malaga, Spain. Called to the Flamingo Club in a back alley of Antofagasta she confronts the prime suspect, Paula(Carmen Montes), a friend of the victim. After a brief Q & A the balance of the film shows what happened in the interval leading up to the killing, which turns out to be a crime of passion. Or is it all in the mind of Paula?

Robert Louis Stevenson’s THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE may have been a starting point but this is a film essentially built around  the late Friedrich Gulda’s musical composition,  an upbeat Jazz fantasia which takes us back to the ambiance of NECRONOMICON (1967), the story of the killing of the Prince by the demoniac woman in the garden of the Devil is repeated from that classic Jess Franco title. It is a film with obviously made with no budget, made up of mainly color variations, the morphing image of an exotic dancer and music. This has to be one of his lowest budgeted films. No sets except for an apartment, no real script, a situation rather than a story, a few lines of dialogue, one costume, an alley exterior, glittering nothingness. And Franco was his own operator! The last days of Orson Welles come to mind. Summed up with this note: Y NUNA MAS SE VOLVI A OIR HABLAR DEL SHOW DE PAULA-PAULA.

It’s a magical, blessedly brief, experimental neo-noir which illustrates a terrific musical score and the director’s boredom with the illusion of reality.. Like Jess himself, it’s infused with joy and delightful surprises. Things that our troubled world can never get enough of.

Jess Franco has been in the movie business for as long as I’ve been alive and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Once upon a time in Spain Luis Garcia Berlanga told Jess Franco that all you need is a movie camera…. If Berlanga was his inspiration, along with Stevenson, many may be taken aback by the severe minimalism of the project. Franco regulars just need to know that it’s %100 Jess Franco.

Wearing his dark glasses, a bright red pullover and smoking with class, Jess seems energized and younger than ever in the introduction and interviews. He defines himself as “young at heart” and is anxious (at 79!) to make a new series of films. He reminds us that age is not a matter of years but a state of mind. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as relaxed and happy. Interesting that he states this is his 209th [!] film. That’s about what I put it at considering the alternate versions in his extensive filmography.