Journeys into perversion: vision, desire and economies of transgression in the films of Jess Franco

Ward, Glenn (2011) Journeys into perversion: vision, desire and economies of transgression in the films of Jess Franco. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Due to their characteristic themes (such as 'perverse' desire and monstrosity) and form (incoherence and excess), exploitation films are often celebrated as inherently subversive or transgressive. I critically assess such claims through a close reading of the films of the Spanish 'sex and horror' specialist Jess Franco. My textual and contextual analysis shows that Franco's films are shaped by inter-relationships between authorship, international genre codes and the economic and ideological conditions of exploitation cinema. Within these conditions, Franco's treatment of 'aberrant' and gothic desiring subjectivities appears contradictory. Contestation and critique can, for example, be found in Franco's portrayal of emasculated male characters, and his female vampires may offer opportunities for resistant appropriation. But these possibilities do not amount to the 'radicality' sometimes attributed to the exploitation field.

Focusing on international co-productions from early 1960s to mid 1970s, I discuss the ideological ambivalence of their fascination with 'perversity' and 'otherness'. Chapter 1 argues that The Awful Dr Orlof challenges dominant standards of quality in contemporary Spanish cinema, that its figuring of monstrosity contains a potential critique of Francisco Franco's dictatorship, and that it only partially destabilises the genre's traditional gender codes. Chapter 2 discusses femme fatale stereotypes and fantasy tropes in Venus in Furs. Mixing visual discourses of 'high' and 'low' culture in an evocation of male 'mad love', this film dramatises vision in a way which problematises the notion of the mastering, coherent gaze. Chapter 3 argues that Franco's female vampire films embody, while reflexively estranging, heteronormative male fascination with the 'otherness' of female/'lesbian' desire. Franco's supposed transgressivity is often referred to as Sadeian; through a reading of Demoniac and Franco's 'captive women' imagery, the final chapter therefore discusses the political possibilities, contradictions and limitations of Franco's Sadeian representations.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion pictures
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2011 14:20
Last Modified: 14 Aug 2015 13:41
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/6928

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