Wednesday, January 03, 2007

MACUMBA SEXUAL (JESS FRANCO, 1983)



MACUMBA SEXUAL was one of the first films that Franco made after he teamed up with Golden Productions; returning to Spain after working as a film maker for a good 15 years in other countries. Teaming up with Gold Productions allowed Franco to have complete freedom over his films; for once he didn't have to worry about any one's cinematic ideas except for his own.

Not much actually happens in Macumba Sexual (plot wise), so I'll sum it up quite succinctly: Alice (Lina Romay, here billed as Candy Coster) and her boyfriend are vacationing on the Canary Islands. They spend their days lounging around in the sun and making love, while occasionally Alice's boyfriend works on his novel, which he's having trouble with. All is pretty much a peaceful paradise.

However, Alice keeps having terrible nightmares that involve a tall, dark-skinned woman and her two pet "beasts" (a nude man and woman who crawl on all fours, kept on leashes). Every time she has the nightmare she tosses and turns, almost to the extent of a convulsion, almost always waking up with a scream.

After the viewer is exposed to a few days of the happy couple in their island bliss, Alice gets a call from her boss (she's apparently in real estate) who tells her that she needs to go see Princess Obongo, because she wants to buy one of their houses in Atlantic City. Alice takes the journey with some trepidation, traveling first on a old yacht, then further into sand filled terrain on a camel. Once arriving, almost Alice is subtly stricken by the fact that Princess Obongo is the exact woman haunting her dreams.

Almost immediately, Princess Obongo sets to seducing Alice, and accomplishes her goal with ease. The two make love extensively, occasionally the Princesses two 'beasts' joining in on the fun. However, the Princess has a darker goal in mind-- she intends to make Alice the new carrier of her mysteriously evil immortality.

At this point in the film reality and fantasy begin to blur... Franco takes us through a world-wind of scenarios, never revealing which are imagined and which are real. And it's for this reason that the film achieves a sort of ecstatic beauty-- reality and fantasy aren't too different in Princess Obongo's desert realm, so what's the point is signifying a difference?

The dialogue in the film is kept to a minimum, it was obvious that Franco's intention was to visually convey the story, and in this aspect he succeeds. As mentioned before, not much is actually accomplished in the film, but Franco's beautifully perverse romp is a very aesthetically engaging film. The Princess's living area is architecturally stunning, built up almost like tree houses devoid of trees, with long empty spaces on all sides.

It's also worth noting that Franco compares Ajita Wilson's presence in a film to a similar sort of "aura" that Christopher Lee could evoke, and Franco is dead on. While given a very mediocre role in an even more mediocre film in Sadomania, Macumba Sexual gives Wilson the perfect opportunity to let herself be ever present, and she does it well.

While the film isn't perfect, the minor poetry that Franco infuses throughout is enough to keep the film pertinent in the Franco canon. It's a very accomplished piece of personal cinema, and I'm highly anticipating more of Franco's Golden Production films.

1 Comments:

Blogger scott said...

one of Franco's all-time best.. though still not up there with GEMIDOS DE PLACER for his 80s work but this comes close...

6:50 AM  

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