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January 31, 2011

Movie Review: Paula-Paula (2010)

I have been joking with my girl friend that one day on this site I will write a three letter review of some movie: "WTF?" End of blog. If I were to carry through on that threat, Jesus "Jess" Franco's PAULA-PAULA would certainly be my target.

Buy Paula-Paula on DVD

I can enjoy cinematic sleaze from time to time as much as the next guy. An occasional roll in the cinematic mud can be a lot of fun. And I can't say I haven't enjoyed watching some of Franco's films in the past on just that level. But this one is so thin, it asks way too much of us.

Jesus Franco is something of a legend in genre films. He is certainly one of the most prolific directors ever. This is his 209th film. I know! 209!!!!! He has a large following and reputation with some genre fans, although I never really understood why. His camera, it seems to me, has always been much more interested in women's crotches than in the story he was attempting to tell. I don't think he ever had a huge budget to work with, but in the early seventies he seemed to have respectable ones with period pieces like COUNT DRACULA (with Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski) or JACK THE RIPPER (with Jack Palance). Bad as those were, they at least had scripts and some pretty respectable talent in front of the camera, and he had a chance to prove himself to be the artist he always claimed to be. For me, though, they were squandered opportunities. His lack of story sense and his pandering sensibilities always muddled up what could have been pretty gripping euro-horror. Now, in his elder years, he is producing dreck like PAULA-PAULA, which was probably shot in a single day in his own apartment.

Calling it a "movie" is certainly stretching the point. Even Franco himself had the sense to label it "an audiovisual experience." It is only 67 minutes long, and half of the "action" is in slow motion to stretch it out to even that short running time. Even so, it is so thin that it still feels labored and padded.

It has no story, merely a concept, and a pretty loose one a that. Franco has the audacity to label it as "inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's 'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.'" I defy you, Mr. Franco, to explain just how.

In the beginning, brunette Paula (Carmen Montes) is taken into the office of female police detective Alma Pereira (Lina Romay, who in her younger day was the sexy lead in many Jess Franco films), as a suspect in the murder of blond Paula (Paula Davis), her partner in an erotic dance act at a local strip club. The rest of the movie - literally - consists of long takes of Paula and Paula gyrating their naked and semi-naked bodies (together and separately) in front of a very bad backdrop of silver mylar. There is a murder at the end, but I won't give away the details of the only sorta-kinda surprise the "audiovisual experience" pretends to deliver. But I will say that even it is laughably staged, with a bloody close up interspersed with wider shots in which the blood had completely vanished.

All this is accompanied to jazz pieces by Franco's friend, the late pianist/composer Fiedrich Gulda. The DVD liner tells us it is a "superb score," and other reviewers have written kindly of the music. I am not a musician and in position to judge, nor do I wish to malign the dead. But to me it sounded like pretty standard Vegas lounge stuff.

The women are decent looking, but hardly beautiful, so even if you are looking just for T & A you will likely be disappointed.

I'm not really sure I can say anything more about this one. If you are a Franco completist, you may want to own it. I can't imagine why anybody else would. So, I leave you again with my initial impression...


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