Rest in Peace, Jesus “Jess” Franco (1930-2013)
I’m writing this quickly, as I have to get this out now, while the news is still stinging, but Jesús “Jess” Franco died yesterday. To me, Franco was and remains the most important figure in cinema, a fascinating individual who ate, slept and breathed moviemaking, who lived to point his lens at anything that caught his eye, who was too arty for the horror crowd and too macabre and lowbrow for the art crowd. He existed in a world of his own, a class of his own and he is of the handful of true auteur filmmakers in which the key to understanding and embracing his style, aesthetic and sensibility lay in viewing and analyzing his entire body of work.
And that, in and of itself, is no mean feat.
The Spanish born writer, director, sometime actor and always jazz musician and music junkie made about 200 films—that we know of—under almost as many pseudonyms. To love Franco was to play sleuth, sifting through titles, re-titles, alternate cuts, bootlegs, soft and hard versions (Franco was noted as being one of the pioneers of erotic horror, in some cases downright pornographic horror and fantasy depending on the country of release). Tim Lucas famously charted much of this Franconian skullduggery in the 80’s video boom in the pages of FANGORIA, its sister mag GOREZONE and his own magazine, VIDEO WATCHDOG. It was during this period that I too became one of the legions obsessed with Franco’s magnificent obsessions. I have written about Franco endlessly, taught classes about his work, had to stand tall against his many, many detractors, interviewed the man and his recently departed life partner and muse Lina Romay and was planning a big Franco cover story/lifetime achievement award issue for August with Severin bigwig and Franco pal David Gregory.
And that show *will go on.
I even made a movie called BLOOD FOR IRINA that I dedicated to Lina (the film is a sort of homage to the Franco/Romay classic FEMALE VAMPIRE) and was hoping to share with Jess this year. I’m proud of the work as I think it captures that most important element that made Franco’s work so powerful; not the sex, the blood or the shocks, but the romantic longing, the meandering jazz-like voyeurism and music-as-character texture. The real soul of a Franco film. Franco indeed made movies like he made his music: loose, fast, dreamy…not for all tastes, some more potent than others, but all inimitable and all truly his own.
There’s no point itemizing every picture Jess Franco made. Internet searches will point you in many directions to either begin or further your education. Just know that this humble editor of the mag you read is deeply saddened by the passing of a true maverick and has an even more potent renewed sense of purpose at getting that special Franco spotlight together.
May he rest in peace somewhere out there in the sunny, sandy, candle-lit and go-go boot littered ether beside the spirit of his lovely Lina.