Judge Daryl Loomis' driver has respectfully requested he keep his clothes on during the limo ride home.
Diary of a desperate housewife!
In the long and slimy string of erotica that European producers churned out during the '70s and '80s, Jess Franco (Female Vampire) has had a hand in plenty. A true journeyman of the genre with more than 100 credits to his name (and his various pseudonyms), he put out more salacious softcore than anybody would ever want to see. His success stems more from his sense of style and his willingness to go to the extremes than his skill behind the camera, and his small legion of devoted followers depends on this. Unfortunately, Cecilia does not live up to his previous efforts and falls flat on every level.
Facts of the Case
Cecilia (Muriel Montrossé, Emmanuelle Forever), your average, everyday housewife, is beautiful and horny, but cloistered in her palatial estate on the European hillside. All poor Cecilia wants is a quiet walk on the beach. When her driver picks her up, though, and she gets into the back of her limousine, you can tell she's feeling frisky. How can I tell? The big tip off is when she inexplicably starts stripping off her clothes. Her driver looks on lustfully, and instead of taking her home, drives to his house where his brothers are lying in wait to jump in and have their way with her. She fights it at first, but as she excitedly describes to her husband later that evening, the incident awakened the sexual beast in her (though it's honestly tough to see how she was repressed before). To her husband's chagrin, Cecilia suggests that they start swinging, you know, to help their marriage and show their love for one another. Oddly, this makes sense to him and he agrees that taking multiple lovers is the key to marital bliss.
They make it work for a little while, swinging their way through drunken orgies and incest spectacles. Quickly, though, her husband's jealousy ends up cramping Cecilia's sexy style and she has to make a choice: keep up her free-wheeling, free-loving lifestyle on her own or return to monogamy with her vindictive but rich husband. What's a girl to do?
Originally titled The Sexual Aberrations of a Housewife, Cecilia differs little from the director's usual dubious offerings. Regardless of genre, Franco's films always punctuate a boring and poorly written plot with stylish action, copious skin, and lots of zooms. Franco's imaginative, sometimes bizarre, sexuality puts much of his softcore fare on a higher level than most. I expected nothing less from Cecilia; however, outside of a single scene that is a little strange and quite disgusting, the "sexual aberrations" part of that original title is misleading. Maybe something like "The Dull Grinding of a Bored Housewife" would have been more appropriate, and that title would have been no less convoluted.
Like so many similar films, every line of dialogue only serves to get us to the next sex scene. Unfortunately, while the plot is patently absurd, it isn't very much fun. Dramatic and self-serious, it flaccidly tries for some kind of philosophy of swinging, hammering audiences with its sexual doctrine. When the supposed titillation finally comes, it seems pointless, silly, and completely unsexy. The uniformly wooden acting lulled me to sleep, and the monotonous lines seemed to go on forever and repeat themselves. The performances, while bad in general, aren't helped at all by the bad English dub. It isn't the worst that I've seen, but it's pretty distracting. The disc comes with the original French language track as well but, and since the movie (and all those like it) was shot silent and dubbed in post-production for all languages, watching the film in French fools viewers into a feeling of authenticity. If it makes you feel better that the film is subtitled, go ahead, but the lips won't match the voices at any point. With the bad acting, absurd plotting, and unerotic grinding, there isn't a lot to recommend about Cecilia even to diehard fans of Franco's work.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Franco has developed a huge cult following over the years. I have enjoyed plenty of his films and am always a little intrigued when I see his name attached to something. For all the bad things about Cecilia and his other films, Franco has always known how to show off his actresses. Like his previous beauties Soledad Miranda and Lina Romay (who is advertised on the packaging as part of the film, but I couldn't place her), Muriel Montrossé is a sight to behold, even if she can't act her way out of a set of satin sheets.
To those already converted to the Franco cult, Blue Underground has served you very well with an impressive restoration job on Cecilia. It retains the classic Vaseline-smeared look of the cinematography, but the print is amazingly clear and clean. The locations are brilliantly beautiful, and the dark interiors are well rendered with deep blacks and nicely saturated colors. The aforementioned English dub track and its French equivalent, both in mono, come through the center channel clearly, so you can be sure to hear all the important lines. The only extras are the original theatrical trailer and a 15-minute interview with Jess Franco, who primarily discusses the benefits and challenges of shooting in dictatorial Portugal. Franco is always an entertaining and engaging character, and the interview is well worth the listen.
For years, I've been taken in by the promises that Franco's films make, and I have been consistently disappointed for the same reasons. You have to give him credit for the quantity of films he made, but the quality is extremely low. For Francophiles only, Cecilia holds little value for anyone else.
Jess Franco and Co. are guilty of misrepresenting the content of their film as something sexy. Blue Underground is commended for their continuing efforts to restore obscure and marginal B-films. If they don't do it, nobody else will.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
• "Sexual Aberrations of Cecilia" Interview with director Jess Franco
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