Monday, January 11, 2010

Eugénie de Franval (Sade, 1800) and Eugenie de Sade (Jesus Franco, 1970)

This is sort of a Giftmas Rundown post since I got Jesus Franco's 1970 legfest from an unwitting family member (via a giftcard). Eugenie de Sade is a retelling of the Marquis de Sade's novella Eugénie de Franval, part of the original The Crimes of Love collection (currently available as part of Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings here Amazon/Amazon UK/Chapters). I was interested in the film after reading Empress Kate's review - I am typically wary of Franco, and always wary of stories that claim to be Sade influenced. With my Franco fears placed in check I decided I could care less about the Sadean aspect since the film got such high praise.

Now, I am no film critic, but I will tell you it is beautifully shot. A lot of the greatness is just looking at the imagery. Also, if you have a perfectly sensible leg fixation, this is a must see as Soledad Miranda is either in long shirts, or short skirts slit to the waist through most of the film. Lastly, I really loved the music. Well, most of it. Some of the dubbing and sound editing are flaky. My DVD is from Blue Underground, if that means anything to the real cinephiles out there.


Some spoilers here...

As far as the Sadean element goes, it appears that Franco out-Saded l'Divine Marquis. Sade's story is that of l'Comte de Franval who raises his daughter, Eugénie, to be a libertine. This disturbs his wife and mother-in-law. Franval tries to implicate his wife in scandal by having his friend, Valmont, cuckold him. This friend falls for Eugénie instead and forms an intrigue with the wife. Eventually Valmont is murdered, and Franval and Eugénie plot to kill the wife. Perfectly Sadean, until the end... Madame Franval is killed by her daughter, but Eugénie feels so terrible about it that she dies on the spot. Franval learns of his wife's death and repents his sins, then he kills himself. What?

In Franco's story, Franval is known as Albert Radeck, and he and Eugenie have the same relationship, sans the mother whom Radeck killed after Eugenie's birth. The two plot murders to commit together. Eugenie is sent to seduce and destroy a young man, but falls in love with him. Maddened by her treason, Radeck kills the young man and attempts to kill Eugenie, but dies himself. That is the Sade I know.

Since this story is from The Crimes of Love it is understandably odd from the Sadean standpoint. These stories were moralistic in tone, as opposed to earlier works. There is no description of sex or even of bodies. It is a PG-13 kind of book. It is possible that Sade, who was now out of prison and wanted to stay out, began writing in a more acceptable tone. Unfortunately, Napoleon Bonaparte had a real hard-on for Sade, calling Justine (1791) "the most abominable book ever engendered by the most depraved imagination." Napoleon had Sade imprisoned again in 1801.

So, in an odd turn of events, I would recommend the movie before the book. If you want a moralistic Sade, I would recommend Oxtiern, The Misfortunes of Libertinage, the short story. Oxtiern is a better villain, and the result is less goody-two-shoes.

12 comments:

Ghidorah said...

Glad you started to like Franco. This is an acquired taste...

Darius Whiteplume said...

It certainly is. I just mentioned on LTftTE that my first Franco experience was "Isla: The Wicked Warden" which was very off-putting then, though I have an appreciation for it now, I think.

Yum-Yum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yum-Yum said...

Oooh, ooooh! I have a perfectly sensible leg fixation.

Seriously, I almost bought this yesterday based solely of your use of the term "legfest." I had the Eugénie de Franval DVD in my hand, but put decided to put it back on the shelf (it's not cheap). I will buy it, though, I just wasn't in a buying mood. Mmmmm, Soledad Miranda.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I know what terms to use to get your attention ;-)

Let me think. Mayhaps we can figure sumtin' out.

Gene Phillips said...

I enjoyed your comparison of Sade and Franco. Franco's version of Sade isn't exactly in tune with the original's ideas on all scores, but the Franco films with a Sadeian basis are better than most of his other stuff.

For that matter, I thought his ILSA (aka "Greta the Wicked Warden") fell into the category of Sadeian territory, while the badly-named SADOMANIA just seemed like another dull WIP film.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Hi Gene,

I have yet to see Sadomania, but yes, Wicked Warden has a def 120 Days of Sodom appeal. It was the least, um... Funny? Campy? of the Ilsa movies (I have not seen Tigress, however).

Easily the truest Sade to film is Salo. Passolini really got the feel right, and it was just so horrific. I am glad Criterion re-released it.

Gene Phillips said...

Hi Darius,
"Ilsa the Tigress" is a horrible bore. If you can get for a $1 rental, as I did, you might want to see it for completism's sake, but don't spend more on it.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I'll keep that in mind. I didn't think the Ilsa movies could explore any new territory. "Just throw some snow on it and a Russian hat." :-D

dfordoom said...

Eugenie de Sade is very close to being Franco's best movie (and I'm a huge fan of his movies). I liked Sade's story quite a bit. Even though the stories in Crimes of Love have a moralistic gloss I think the moralising is clearly tongue-in-cheek. In fact in some ways they're more subversive than something like Justine because the cynicism is hidden beneath the moralistic surface.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Crimes of Passion is not my strong suit. A lot of scholars say it is moralistic, possibly because they are not as violent as most? I think Sade's most moralistic is possibly The 120 Days of Sodom. He clearly does not like the libertines, as they represent the people he hates most in the world; rich aristocracy, the law, bankers, and the church. Also, Sade as a veteran, might be highly opposed to war profiteers, even if only because he did not profit himself. ;-)

Darius Whiteplume said...

Of course, it is always hard to tell what Sade really wants us to think.

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