Monday, August 16, 2010

Macumba Sexual (Jesús Franco, 1983)

You can say a lot of things about Jess Franco's films, but saying they are normal is not one of them. Macumba Sexual is a strange, trippy, dream-like movie that explores West African Voodoo on the Canary Islands.

Lina Romay plays Alice Brooks, an American real estate agent on vacation with her husband in (presumably) the Canary Islands. She is contacted by her boss that a local aristocrat, Princess Obongo (Ajita Wilson) is interested in an American property and he wants Alice to meet with her. Alice consents after a substantial cut is offered. Alice's husband (Antonio Mayans, credited only as "husband of Alice") is a writer, and agrees that the meeting could be beneficial.

Of course, there is a problem. Alice has been having dreams about a woman named Tara. In the dream, Tara approaches her with two beasts—a male and a female. She looses the beasts, which ravish Alice. The dream always ends with Tara dead before Alice. Oddly enough, the Princess is Tara Obongo.

A strange, old style boat comes to meet Alice and take her to the Princess' island. She meets the hotel receptionist, played by Franco (oddly enough, it appears to be his own voice for once). He tells her the Princess has been dead for many years. Then, after being caught spying on Alice whilst she sunbathes, he tells her that no one goes to the Princess and returns. She is death, and will steal away your youth and beauty.

From the hotel, Alice travels by camel to the Princess' residence. Alice seems unperturbed that the Princess Tara Obongo looks exactly like the Tara from her dreams, or that the Princess has two naked slaves, a male and female, with dog collars. Of course, dreams and reality seldom look alike, and stark differentiation is beyond the budget of this particular film.

There is a lot of good stuff, story-wise, in this film. I watched it on the Severin Films DVD which contains an interview with Franco and Romay. Franco said he went with a production company that could not give him much of a budget, but offered him complete freedom. He explains that no one forced changes on the film, or foisted actors on him that he did not want. Franco wrote the screenplay as well, basing it on a Senegalese cult of Macumba.

Franco describes Ajita Wilson as a female Christopher Lee. He says she is less an actress than a presence. She is tall and intimidating. You could easily see Grace Jones in the role of Princess Obongo. Personally, I found Wilson to be a tad strange looking, though it added to the scariness of her role. Romay, who had quite a bit of face-time with Wilson's nether-regions, confirms the rumor that Wilson is transgendered. This is not an issue for me, but perhaps explains the oddness of her look?

At a short 82 minutes, this is a really good entry for Franco. If you can stand the high sexual content, and near constant nudity, it makes for a great psychological horror film. Oddly, the sex scenes are not the ones that drag on too long (as is typical), but rather the shots of travel between the hotel and the Princess' lair. Franco's cinematographer, Juan Soler, makes great use of the sweeping dunes and seascapes, and the length of the travel scenes helps cement the idea of isolation once you are in Obongo's clutches.

1 comment:

dfordoom said...

I think it's one of Franco's best movies. And it was a welcome return to the trippiness of his late 60s movies like Venus in Furs.

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