In Memory of Jess Franco May 12, 1930 – April 2, 2013


In memory of Jess Franco, who died on April 2nd at the age of 82, I’m pasting an excerpt from Musique Fantastique Book II (delayed but forthcoming) which discusses his own efforts in film music. RIP to a unique filmmaker who enriched European cinema fantastique. -rdl

Film Music of Jess Franco
As an inconsistent and controversial auteur, Jess Franco’s inclination toward exploitative eroticism, especially in his more recent films, has tended to discount his effectiveness as a stylish and creative director, but his use of music has been especially noted by fans and foes alike. Franco was a musician himself, so his ear toward the coupling of music and image was especially fertile. He has said that he approaches his films like a jazz musician, which may explain some of the stylistic mise-en-scene felt in his films, and why he frequently includes extended musical sequences and night club scenes in his movies. “I come from the music hall,” Franco said in a 2010 interview. “I was a jazz player and composer before all other things in my life. I like jazz music, I like popular music. For me it was normal and not a special effort to introduce those elements in a film. And I like it – its ambiance. Not for a commercial reason or anything. I like the nature of the night, of jazz or popular music together. Elements that work very well for cinema.”
Using his own name or a pseudonym, Franco has also helped compose music for dozens of his films, such as softly surreal psychedelic rhythms of VAMPIROS LESBOS (1970), the harsh, reverberated piano chords and organ inflections of THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF (1973), or the gritty, jazz-rock infusions heard in LUST FOR FRANKENSTEIN (1998). “I [do] think films are a matter of collaboration,” Franco told an interviewer from Horror Garage. “Many times [when] I made almost everything by myself [composing the music is] just a quicker way – I have not to explain what I want. I just do it.”
“In many of the great Franco films sometimes the music is carrying almost everything in the film,” said writer and composer Stephen Thrower. “He puts an enormous amount of emphasis upon the music, and music’s one of the least definably of the arts in its effect, and one of the most immediate… It’s a very powerful artistic medium and he uses it to the utmost in his films.”
His music in one of his most strikingly surrealistic films, VENUS IN FURS (1969; aka PAROXISMUS), was provided by British rockers Mike Hugg and Manfred Mann, both of the original Manfred Mann Band. The music is nearly wall-to-wall, as Tim Lucas put it in Video Watchdog, “and the accumulation of its alternatively feverish and coolly iridescent tonalities becomes truly hypnotic. The emotions aroused by the music, in fact, go a long way towards supplanting the linear qualities lacking from its sensually shapeless, dreamlike structure.”
– Randall D. Larson/Musique Fantastique 2nd Edition, Book Two (forthcoming)

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