Venus in Furs, Jesus Franco’s cult classic surreal film (also, horrotica) is loosely based on the Leopold von Sacher Masoch novel Venus in Furs. Franco’s film is also known as Paroxismus. Both the film and the novel are stories about unattainable love and how far one is willing to go for the person they desire.
In this film, Jimmy, played by James Darren, loses his mind entirely and follows his Venus wherever she goes. As in the von Sacher novel, her name is Wanda. We first meet Jimmy and Wanda (played by Maria Rohm) in Istanbul. He plays the trumpet in a band and she, wearing her fur and her brilliant red hair, captures his heart. Other notable characters include Klaus Kinski who plays Ahmed, a handsome rich man, and Barbara McNair who plays Rita, Jimmy’s faithful girlfriend.
In Istanbul, Jimmy believes he witnesses Ahmed and two other people brutally kill Wanda. Distraught over this, he leaves Istanbul for Rio and returns to his girlfriend. Rita is introduced while she is writhing around a blue floor in a silver slinky dress singing "Where Did Our Love Go?" at a club in Rio. This is only one of the many wonderful things about this movie. The dialogue consists mostly of Jimmy talking to himself, telling his terrifying and tragic story. Jimmy’s lines are somewhat poetic, like when he says "a guy like me without a horn is like… well, a man without words," as he's digging his trumpet out of the sand on the shore of the Black Sea. When Wanda appears, Jimmy instantly freaks out and says, “I was trapped in a whirlpool that kept sucking me in deeper and deeper. Where was I going? Why was this happening to me? Why couldn't I fight it?”
Included on this DVD is the director’s commentary, where Franco talks about the surrealism in the movie and his admiration for Salvador Dali (which made me love him even more). Also, there is audio commentary from Maria Rohm in which she discusses working with the other actors and how she herself felt about Venus in Furs. The film, produced in 1969, is surreal and delicately erotic and by today’s standards “clean”. It is clear there are lines that can’t be crossed in some of the sex scenes but the way the director works around them is artful, tasteful, and alluring. There is also a scene of what I consider to be blasphemous pornography that is pure cinematographic genius and worth to me a hundred awards and discussions. I will not go into any more detail about this scene and only urge that the movie be watched if for no other reason than to see this.
The music throughout the movie is as important as the plot but it fits in so well that you don’t notice it as being something that you’re really supposed to notice. The score is absolutely perfect. And the continuous singing of "Venus in Furs Will Be Smiling" is delightfully infectious. If you’ve never seen a Franco film, this one will be the one to make you fall in love.