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» » Sinfonía erótica (1980)

Short summary

A nobleman and his two lovers - a teenage boy and a runaway nun - plan to kill his mentally fragile wife.

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  • comment
    • Author: Erienan
    If you're a fan of the late Spanish horror/porn director Jesus Franco, you could certainly do worse than this 1980 outing, which is--like much of the director's more interesting sex films--based on a story by the Marquis De Sade. A young noblewoman (Lina Romay) is released from an asylum and returns to her isolated castle where she finds her sexually depraved husband has taken up with both a pretty-boy male gigolo and a libertine, runaway novice nun (Susan Hemingway). What follows is a slowly developing murder plot interrupted by no small amount of sex.

    I enjoy Franco most when he's indulging in polymorphous perversion like he does here--you have bondage, nunsploitation, gay sex, a "Devil's three-way" (two guys and a girl), and a couple impaled while having sex. This is truly an "erotic symphony" as Franco plays the bodies of his assorted cast like instruments (and scores the whole thing with classical music) making the actual plot more of secondary consideration.

    Of course, Franco can't keep his camera off the vaginas of his two actresses, but at least he doesn't try to zoom his way back into the womb like he tends to in some movies. He gets a lot of mileage out of his wife/leading lady's bounteous breasts, but he tragically neglects the beautiful post-adolescent posterior of Susan Hemingway, which COULD have finally been enjoyed without guilt here as she had reached the age of majority by this time. (Pervert that he was though, Franco would trade her for the even younger Katja Beinert in his subsequent early 80's films). The gay sex scene is not particularly graphic, but unusual for Franco. Whether you like it or not, you have to admire the sheer variety of sex on display, particularly given how complete compartmentalized and commodified sex films are TODAY. There will never be another one like Jess Franco. . .
  • comment
    • Author: Weetont
    Sinfonía erótica (1980) *** (out of 4)

    Martine de Bressac (Lina Romay) is returning home after a stay in a mental hospital. Once there she is told that her husband is having an affair with a young man. Soon the two men are out walking in the woods when they come across a young nun (Susan Hemingway) who has been raped. Before long Martine is slipping more into a mental state while the other three are planning her murder.

    I've seen over a hundred and fifty films from Spanish director Jess Franco and he's made some great ones and some truly awful ones. Out of all of the films I've seen I'd say that SINFORNIA EROTICA takes the number one spot for his most underrated. If you're expecting sleaze, nudity, sex and violence then you're really not going to get that from this film. While the movie does contain some of that there's no question that this here is an art film and a well-made on at that.

    Slightly based on a Marquis de Sade story, the film manages to really come across as a nightmare. Franco's direction is certianly among the best of his career as he does a great job at really painting a woman's mental breakdown and the craziness that surrounds her. The film's cinematography really does a great job with its soft focus to show what a nightmare the lead character is going through. I thought the cinematography really managed to build up a bizarre fever-dream like vision that helped draw you into the picture.

    The film also benefits from some nice performances as well. This includes Romay who doesn't get a lot of dialogue and instead must act just with her eyes. I really thought this was one of her best roles and one of her finest performances. She's basically got to just act with her eyes and what's going on in her troubled mind and I thought the actress was quite believable. Hemingway, who appeared in a handful of films for Franco, has always been one of my favorite actresses of his and she too is extremely good in her role. Both Armando Borges and Mel Rodrigo are good as well.

    As I said, the film contains some nudity and sex as well as some violence but it's off the screen. The film really doesn't go for any sort of sleaze and that's why some people might be bored by it. That's really too bad because it's certainly a well-made movie and one of the better ones that Franco made.
  • comment
    • Author: Ximinon
    This is an aesthetically well conceived psycho-drama, which seems built around his own (well chosen) musical sound-track (Franz Liszt romantic Concertos and Franco's own synthesized scores). Images and music combined, create a fascinating erotic atmosphere. "Sinfonia Erotica" (Erotic Symphony) is a most appropriate title for this movie. I consider it one of Franco's most ambitious and best crafted works in spite of being an "only-few-thousand-bucks-budget-production". The movie has a captivating languid pace, with slow, sudden unpredictable circling camera movements and shots from unorthodox angles. The lens cuts thru the shadows, showing mainly details of faces, bodies and objects, often reflected in mirrors. The setting is a large villa, surrounded by luscious vegetation and sunny bodies of water. The camera leads us, following the action, through rooms and corridors, whose darkness is broken by the flickering light of candles and oil-lamps, shown in close-up and out-of-focus. Distant voices, moaning, echoes and other eerie sound-effects, effectively contribute creating a morbid and hallucinated atmosphere of sensuality and corruption. The story is about Countess Martine De Bressac (sultry Lina Romay), her mental illness, her sensual obsession and her very "Sadean" relationship to her husband. She feels irresistible lust driven love for him. In return she gets rejection, psychological abuse and humiliation. Armand had engaged earlier in a relationship with an ambiguous teenager named Fiore, and completely neglects his marital duties, which drives Martine over the edge of mental sanity. During her recurring sex-abstinence triggered violent crises, she wildly caresses her body, trying in vane to quench her sexual desire. One night, she sexually assaults Norma, a young novice (beautiful Susan Hemingway). Earlier in the movie, Norma had been found wounded at the entrance of the villa and immediately "adopted" by Armand, who turned her into his favorite "pleasure-toy", to provide a touch of extra spice, during his encounters with Fiore. In a later twist of the story however, Norma and Fiore fall in love and are planning to run away. This triggers the vengeance of Armand. He discovers them making passionate love and, in a sudden burst of rage, runs his sword thru their naked bodies joined (at this point forever) in the act of love. Martine lives secluded within the boundaries of the villa, in a semi-catatonic mental state, her eyes gazing through the window towards imaginary spaces. She spends time only in the company of her lady-friend Wanda, who warns her about the criminal plans of Armand and will pay with death her loyalty to her mistress and, sometimes, briefly with her mysterious Doctor who, however, seems "playing on both sides of the fence". Martine appears not able to communicate with the real world. In her mind she hears the loving words exchanged with her husband at the beginning of their marriage. She only becomes alive during her continuously frustrated attempts to make love to Armand. She keeps getting rejected and forced back to a borderline mental state, where reality and fantasy are deeply interconnected. Relentlessly she keeps offering herself to him and finally, one night, he violently possesses her. At one point, close to the peak of pleasure, she gasps, collapses and dies or, at least so it appears. Here we get the most baffling conclusion of the story! Armand plunges into a remorseful state of despair for having killed Fiore. In spite of having reached his objective (getting rid of his wife to get free access to all her wealth), he is a broken man. One night, suddenly Martine appears like a ghost in front of him, with a deadly sword in her hand. Did she came back from death or did she faked it? She is vengeful and determined to finally settle the scores. Armand is in shock, he can't take it anymore and begs her in tears, to put and end to his misery. She runs the sword thru his throat and...Justice is delivered! In the closing sequence we see Martine with her shady Doctor, who urges her, now that "their plan has been accomplished", to forget the whole sad story and start together a new life. Does this mean that Martine was not the "victim" but really the architect of a complex plot, to turn her husband into the "actual victim"? De Sade often mixes-up the roles of "victim" and "executioner" and the "victim" has to fall to the lowest annihilation level and "die" in order to "resurrect". Or was the whole story just the product of Martine's schizophrenic fantasy? Or perhaps a dream? This is a complex, multi-layered movie, recommendable to mature and open-minded viewers and to Franco fans. The depiction of sexual situations is graphic, bordering (and frequently trespassing) forbidden territory. This "IS" a movie for grown-ups. Without the sex sequences, the movie would simply fall apart. If you decide to go for it, please beware of any edited/cut versions. They would keep you safe from nudity and sex however, they would leave you guessing, hopelessly trying to find some sense for the (at this point) loose images rolling on screen. Lina Romay is a wonderful leading lady and she delivers one of the best performances of her career. Her portrait of Countess Martine is convincing and compelling. She is sensitive, romantic, passionate, sad, wild and crazy. Her wonderful big dark eyes have a unique and natural ability to express all kind of feelings. Her sensuality is intense and overwhelming. She doesn't only impersonate the character; she really "IS" Martine De Bressac! Susan Hemingway's character is also complex. She is young and pretty and shows generously her teen body. Perhaps she also actually tried to act here, which is hard to tell since, in my copy, she gets the worst and most vulgar Italian dubbing among the whole cast. Sadly, this little gem, in spite of being an Italian co-production, probably never made it to regular theatrical release in my own native country. I give it a 9 out of 10.

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  • comment
    • Author: Dagdage
    This is a film by Jess Franco, notorious/prolific/dangerous director who made in excess of 200 films between 1962 and 2013 (even he lost count). Being a fan of his work is an endlessly rewarding experience. Just when you think you are beginning to get a handle on his styles and proclivities, he will reset the default switch.

    Such is the case with 'Sinfonia Erotica'. Beginning with the music - many good things have been said about his incidental musical scores, often the finely crafted work of Daniel White, Bruno Nicolai or Franco himself. Here, Franco is credited alongside Franz Liszt, and it is fair to say this film contains a fusion of wistful electronica and Liszt's background classical sweeps. Whereas music in Franco films is often gloriously inappropriate, here, the score is simply *not quite fitting* for the scenes. This gives the action a fractured, drifting quality, an elegance complimented by Franco's idiosyncratic directorial flourishes.

    Lina Romay, who I have always thought of as an excellent, enthusiastic actress, gives possibly her most persuasive performance here. As Martine de Bressac, she is a fragile, damaged figure a million miles away from her ferociously exotic turns in various other roles for her partner/director. She is billed as Candice Coster, and as is often the way, wears a variety of blond wigs pertinent to that stage name. She is abused and humiliated here by her aristocratic family, and laughed at by rescued house-guest Nun Norma, played by Susan Hemingway. There is also a flamboyant gay couple, which I mention because they and their occasional sex scenes are such a rarity for Franco - I think in his fifty years of films, this is the only male homosexual relationship I can think of.

    For all this, it is Franco's directorship that is the main feature here. The locations, which are stunning and propel the visuals far ahead of 'Sinfonia Erotica's' typically low budget, are featured to their fullest by the meandering cinematography, obsession with the views outside the window, drifting in and out of focus (no frantic zooms to speak of though) and sparkling use of lighting; the sound design is often given to echo effects and disorientating distortion, all of which makes this a truly (and terrifically) dreamy trip of a film.
  • Complete credited cast:
    Lina Romay Lina Romay - Martine de Bressac (as Candice Coster)
    Susan Hemingway Susan Hemingway - Norma
    Armando Borges Armando Borges - Marqués Armando de Bressac
    Mel Rodrigo Mel Rodrigo - Flor
    Aida Gouveia Aida Gouveia - Wanda
    George Santos George Santos - George
    Albino Graziani Albino Graziani - Dr. Louys
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