BR: Cries of Pleasure / Gemidos de placer (1983)

July 5, 2020 | By

Film: Excellent

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Very Good

Label:  Severin Films / Unobstructed View

Region: A, B, C

Released: February 25, 2020

Genre:  Erotica

Synopsis: When his wife returns from the sanitarium, a Libertine’s sexual excesses ensnare his latest affair and the local maid.

Special Features: 2 Featurettes: “In the Land of Franco Part 1” (21:03) + “Jess Franco’s Golden Years” (27:01) / 1993 interview with Donald Farmer: “When Donald Met Jess & Lina Part 1” (12:03).





Admittedly one of many issues one can experience with a Jess Franco film is a genuine sense of déjà vu, and Cries of Pleasure, rare as the film may be, is no exception. Franco biographer Stephen Thrower cites an early work, How to Seduce a Virgin / Plaisir à trois (1974) as a close relative in that its plot deals with a woman newly released from an asylum who becomes the plaything of a Libertine-styled countess. There’s also Sinfonia Erotica (1980) where Lina Romay is a mentally wounded wife being tormented by her noble companion and his lovers.

Cries of Pleasure / Gemidos de placer (1983) focuses on a Libertine’s new girlfriend who soon meets his wife, newly released from – where else – an asylum, but Cries is credited as being based on a work by the Marquis de Sade, and if Franco may have interpolated some distractions, de Sade’s fixations on sex via voyeurism, sex + pain, and characters getting off on observing another’s interactions or torment or ecstasy are certainly dominant forces in this fairly compact script.

As Thrower explains in his fact-filled featurette on this ‘golden period’ of Franco’s near-late career canon, the auteur had firmed a partnership with the producers behind Golden Films Internacional S.A., and in spite of tight budgets, he was given free reign to indulge in whatever idea popped into his head, and being Franco, Cries was one of 8 films made that year for the producers, and part of a total of twelve feature films Franco made in 1982 alone.

Thrower doesn’t cite 1982 as a record year for Franco’s manic output, but even if one’s seen a smattering of his early seventies, mid-seventies, and early eighties periods, Cries is one of his best films, if not a very satisfying erotic “hard softcore” production. His decision to use long takes mandated a certain rhythm, and forced the camera (and us) to play voyeur to the looped antics of the five characters caught in the web of sadistic Libertine Antonio (Antonio Mayans).

Cries has its weirdo character – cinematographer Juan Soler was roped into playing the mute guitarist Fenul who hangs around or creeps into sexy scenarios, and from a distance, he plays sometimes highly contrarian music to whatever cruel mayhem is underway. Antonio treats Fenul like an idiot, patting his head like a dog, and tossing him into the pool for jollies, but Fenul is nevertheless accepted by his master as a trusted member, albeit at the cliffside fringe. Fenul, like maid Marta (Elisa Vela), are Antonio’s servants, and being a Libertine, Marta is also his relief pillow when no one else is around.

When new girlfriend Julia (Romay) arrives, she’s initially a guest, but it doesn’t take long before clothes are tossed, crotches are massages, and Antonio makes sure the female inhabitants within his multi-level hillside home temper his outrageous urges. Cries features incessant fucking, and when wife Martina (Rocio Freixas) arrives, Anotnio and Julia have an epic threesome with what’s arguably one of the best music cues written by Franco and Pablo Villa / aka Daniel White. (The score features a mix of stock material, but it’s a more organic mix of material compared to some of Franco’s other solo or co-composed soundtracks and mixed pastiches.)

The threesome solidifies the union of the two Libertines and their new member, and no sooner does Antonio head upstairs to fiddle with Marta than the ladies emerge with a whip and a knife, and as Fenul sits to the side, strumming a light piece, Marta is ravished, sliced, devoured and stabbed – living out the ephemeral existence of a Sadean maiden who experiences sublime climax during exquisite torment.

Fenul quietly & routinely disposes of her cadaver, and his brief absence allow for Martina and Julia to exhaust their master until he’s finally in a state of calm – and then Franco eases in a simple twist which ties back to the film’s opening shot, and Fenul’s inner monologue (voiced, quite effectively, by Franco).

Cries is a Sadean tale of observing, maneuvering and manipulating; achieving a kind of supreme ecstasy; and features five characters tied to a smaller, manageable, and dramatically logical core, and perhaps in spite of the overly prolonged sex scenes which make up the bulk of the film’s narrative, the drama is sustained in takes that follow the plotting and actions of the characters in real time.

Franco and Thrower cite Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) as inspiration, but Franco doesn’t (or perhaps couldn’t) fit in attempts to create a fluid take by seamlessly finding a cutting point between each 10 minute roll of widescreen film; there’s no need, however, because his characters provide the movement and scene tempo which the camera follows, sometimes refocusing on objects or a sheer panel.

Romay is also perhaps more erotic in Cries that other films because she isn’t playing a spy, a period heroine, and lacks a massive or trendy hairstyle or platinum colour, nor does she don some ridiculous costume and bulbous jewelry. Julia is an ordinary girl next-door, and that lack of pretense or forced style gave Romay one of her simplest and best roles. Franco’s cast is fairly capable of their parts and fit their oversexed physical requirements, and it’s not a stretch to suggest that among his 12 films of 1982, this small drama happened to be one he cared about (plus, it’s also in focus).

The terraced home features an incredible view of Calp’s extraordinary geography, and the Emmanuelleish rattan chair where Martine first seats herself in the living room similarly offers a sprawling backdrop where Solar’s camera frequently frames the giant rock (the Peñón de Ifach) that curls out into the Mediterranean.

Severin’s Blu-ray features a lovely anamorphic transfer of what’s apparently one of several films made for Golden Films Internacional which were never seen outside of Spain. The husband & wife owners of the small production entity never felt the need to export the films, or were simply overwhelmed by the mass of product Franco cranked out each year, and this rarity is given a deserved kid glove treatment with a 4K scan from the original negative, and clean audio mix featuring Franco’s mix of stock and score cuts, and amusing vocal foley for the heavy threesome activities in the second half.

Among the Special Features (of which the second parts for each appear on Severin’s Night of Open Sex), Thrower provides an excellent overview of Franco’s activities during this preposterously busy period – between 1980-1989 Franco’s released output totaled 72 – and in Part 1 of “In the Land of Franco” Thrower visits key coastal location in Spain and Portugal where Franco shot several films, with many locales creating a composite of whatever castle or nunnary or port was pivotal in a sex comedy, horror film, or erotic hybrid from the late 1960s to the early 1980s.

The last bonus is a rather sweet interview circa 1993 by Donald Farmer, who visited the sexploitation power couple in Spain during the filming of the unfinished Jungle of Fear, a jungle thriller which also co-starred Chris Mitchum. In the first of perhaps multiple parts, Farmer asks Romay if she has any thoughts on being recognized for her work in Franco’s oeuvre, especially the softcore and hardcore films, and there’s Franco’s thoughts on editing, rhythm, and the use of dolly shots on location.

With over 200 credits as director, there are many peaks and valleys within Franco’s filmography to explore, and Thrower is perhaps correct in teasingly describing 1982 as part of Franco’s golden period; if not for steady quality, then the fascination in discovering how this manic filmmaker managed to coordinate so much in so little time, and what genuine nuggets lay within.



© 2020 Mark R. Hasan



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