Color, 2010, 65m.
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Carmen Montes, Paula Davis, Lina Romay
InterVision (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DD2.0

Probably the most inappropriate introduction to the cinema of Jess Franco imaginable, this 2010 offering doesn’t even bill itself as a “film” per se, but rather an “audiovisual experience.” This is actually correct in that, yes, there is a video element that plays for 65 minutes, and it is indeed accompanied by audio. After that, you’re on your own. Basically a single darkly-lit lesbian sex scene dragged kicking, screaming, grunting, and moaning out to almost an hour, this purports to be the story of an inmate at a psychiatric institution named Paula (Carmen Montes, his Snakewoman muse whom he views as the next big thing in movies) who apparently killed one of her fellow stripper/sex show performer co-workers (Paula Davis) who also happened to be named Paula. Under the questioning of an investigator named Alma (Lina Romay, lit in the most unflattering light possible for her two or so minutes onscreen), she hazily remembers the circumstances that might led to the crime. Or didn’t. Or could have. What it all really amounts to is that we get to see the two Paulas do the nasty in very, very slow motion.

The main redeeming point of Paula-Paula is its dreamy jazz soundtrack; nobody used the music form better than Franco in his prime, and here he proves he still has the power to create an aural journey like no one else. This time the music comes courtesy of Friedrich Gulda, the late Austrian composer and pianist whose work turned up previously in Franco’s Succubus. The soundtrack is basically an amalgam of pieces bequeathed from his estate, and Franco most likely built the whole project around these elements. Shooting on standard digital video, Franco certainly has fun playing around with distortion effects and whatnot, but often the end result feels like a kid running loose with Adobe After Effects. Franco freaks will still want to che ck it out, of course, but as far as comeback vehicles go, let’s hope he has a little more to work with next time.

Once again affirming the unwritten law that Jess Franco’s best interviews are for his least worthy films, Intervision’s Paula-Paula DVD comes with a trio of featurettes (all about the film, apparently cut from the same session) originally commissioned for the film’s limited 500-piece PAL release from CB Films. The frail-looking filmmaker rationalizes how this film is in the same spirit as Sergio Leone, terms it a musical except it doesn’t have any singing or dancing, and explains how the striking soundtrack came to be. Frankly these are far more entertaining and valuable than the, erm, “film” itself, and fans will find a lot to enjoy here. The actual transfer is about as good as you can get given the mediocre shooting materials and overzealous video filtering effects; at least it’s in anamorphic widescreen and looks better than Intervision’s simultaneous release of The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff. The Spanish audio isn’t so hot when anyone’s talking (optional English subtitles are provided, of course), but the music sounds great.