Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Ten years ago or so I was fortunate enough to meet maverick Spanish director Jess Franco and his companion and most frequent collaborator Lina Romay at a film convention in New Jersey. It was an incredibly exciting weekend for me, I was in my early 20s and it was the longest road trip I had ever taken alone. My girlfriend at the time had dropped out at the last minute so I took it alone. At the time I remember thinking that it would have been nice to have someone to share the trip with but my own memories of it, even the car ride up listening to 12 hours of Elvis Costello, are some of my finest.
The weekend was a whirlwind of meeting everyone from Ingrid Pitt to Candy Clark and drooling over incredibly expensive uncut Japanese laserdiscs of films that I only had lousy bootlegs of. My major score was getting a reasonably priced beautiful gatefold issue of Zulawski's Possession which I still have.
The highlight of the weekend was meeting the great Franco and Romay. Ironically I ended up standing in the line to meet them with Craig Ledbetter who operated European Trash Cinema which I had ordered from so many times. Just before the weekend I had watched Franco's Celestine which featured one of Lina's most underrated performances, completely charming, humorous and engaging. This performance had provided me with such a contrast with her dark Female Vampire persona that I had become so used to that I was curious as to what she would be like in person. Happy to report that this dark Spanish Goddess was charming, warm and radiated intelligence in person. I actually barely remember meeting Jess who seemed irritated and tired. It was interesting watching them together, if Jess seemed short with anyone Lina would pull them back over with very sweet small talk understanding that this rare meeting might have some significance for film fans.
It was interesting having a moment with a true genius and maverick like Franco. It felt a bit like going back in time to meet Schiele or any number of misunderstood and dangerous artists. The battle scenes of Chimes of Midnight and those close up of Soledad Miranda's face were zipping through my mind as I mumbled something about liking his films. He promptly waved me off and Lina pulled me back over asking where I was from and what I did. A couple of autographs later and the meeting was over and I caught up in a conversation with Ledbetter about Jose Larraz.
I've seen a lot more Franco and Romay collaborations since that meeting, even the most flawed ones are interesting. The early ones remain my favorites from the twisted intensity of Doriana Grey to her iconic portrayal of Countess Irina all the way to the charming Celestine which I still adore. Franco's lovely muse is one of Spanish films most underrated icons and a really nice woman.