SINNER (1973) – The Dungeon Review!
With 201 credits to his name I will never see every film that Jesús Franco directed. I have however made a goal for myself to see as many of his sixties and seventies feature films as possible. At ninety some odd films from the two decades even that is a bloody big mountain to climb! The man was a movie-making machine! Sinner aka Diary of a Nymphomaniac in quite a departure from his regular fare; at least what I have seen. Despite what its title might imply Sinner is actually one of the more conservative Franco films I’ve seen. Linda, the film’s “sinner” is a sad and complicated woman; I can not think of another character quite like her in a Franco film. His eccentric, sadistic and wild female characters featured in so many of his other films are an absolute shitload of fun but they certainly don’t elicit any sympathy from the viewer; nor are they supposed to. Sinner completely took me by surprise in the most spectacular of ways! I looked Sinner up by name on IMDB and nothing came up. I ended up finding it by looking up Jesús Franco. I can not believe I have found another error on IMDB. Sinner is listed as “adult”. You can not look up films listed as “adult” on IMDB. You can find them by doing a general internet search and usually the IMDB listing is the first thing that comes up. This is now the second time I have had to mention this very same thing. Joe Sarno’s 1968 film Vibrations is also a film listed as “adult” that is not “adult”. Frankly, I have an issue with not being able to look up “adult” films on IMDB. If it is a movie database why is it excluding an entire genre of film anyway? In any case, Sinner is most definitely not an “adult” film. There is no clitoris or penis shots and no graphic entry or cum shots. The sex that is included in Sinner is cut away from at the juicy bits. Sinner is a beautiful, sad, sexy journey and is one of Jesús Franco’s best.
Linda Vargas picks up Mr. Ortiz at the bar she works in. Linda has a lesbian act that she performs with her friend Maria. She gets Mr. Ortiz good and drunk and takes him to a hotel.
Mr. Ortiz and Linda arrive at the hotel and it isn’t long before the liquored Ortiz passes out. Linda calls the police, slits her own throat and falls dead on top of him.
His wife Rosa is called to the station and questioned. Her husband claims to be innocent of the crime, at least the crime of murder, he is however clearly guilty of the crime of adultery. Angry, hurt and humiliated, Rosa decides to do an investigation of her own.
Rosa first goes to see Countess Anna de Monterey.
The countess tells Rosa about Linda’s ugly experience when she first arrived in the city from her family’s country home. Wandering about a fair a man offers to buy her candy floss and takes her on the ferris wheel. The man rapes her while on this amusement ride. The man is unknown to Anna but because we are getting a visual recollection we know that it is Mr. Ortiz.
Linda is then raped by an employer.
One day Linda drops some dresses off to Anna and spies on her having sex. The Countess catches her and the two engage in a love affair. Linda was the first lesbian experience that Anna ever had and it was new and exciting. Anna in turn gave Linda her first orgasm.
Linda is attracted to a man who Anna has been seeing named Alberto. Linda has her first mutually consensual sex with a man and falls in love with Alberto. Alberto’s wife walks in on him and Linda and Alberto gets real pathetic real quick. He literally gets on his knees and begs his rich wife to keep him. “But Angela, don’t be like this. She means nothing to me.”
Linda meets the sensual stripper Maria. The Countess comes home after a trip to find Maria and a photographer in her home. She shouts at them to “Get out” and the next morning Linda leaves without a word.
Linda engages in a relationship with Maria who is involved in a lot more than just stripping. Soon Linda’s life becomes a whirlwind of modelling, drugs and prostitution.
“Might she have killed herself?” -Rosa
“It’s very possible.” -Anna
“Did she already know my husband?” -Rosa
“She knew lots of people, slept with lots of people.” -Anna
“A nymphomaniac then?” -Rosa
Rosa goes to the club where Maria works; it is the sort of place Mrs. Ortiz is not accustomed to frequenting unlike her husband. She asks for Maria. “You know Linda Vargas?”
Maria takes Rosa upstairs to her room and shares some stories with her. But not before stripping down and getting comfortable.
Maria tells Rosa about the time they were picked up with a bunch of their hippie friends for smoking dope. This is when Linda meet the doctor.
The doctor pays her bail and asks her to come to his clinic to rest and be made clean again. The doctor ends up being yet another man in Linda’s life that shits all over her.
Maria reads from Linda’s diary: “I finally realized that fucking is really all I like to do.”
Rosa asks Maria if she can keep Linda’s diary.
Sinner is definitely not wild and crazy like a lot of other Franco flicks. It is a quiet, beautiful, well-made, stylish film with strong character development, an excellent story and a beguiling performance from its lead actress Montserrat Prous. All the supporting characters are watchable and memorable; especially Frano regular Howard Vernon. Vernon’s doctor seemed so genuine in his attempts to help Linda and ends up being a huge douchebag. I also enjoyed the hell out of the super sassy Kali Hansa who plays Maria, she had it going on! There were a couple of bits that gave me a chuckle that involved the manly photographer Mrs. Schwartz played by Doris Thomas. She calls Linda up to ask if she would be interested in posing for some pictures with Maria. Near the end of the conversation Mrs. Schwartz shoves the phone receiver into her stockings and starts stroking the bush. I thought she should have at least hung up the phone first! When Linda shows up to Mrs. Schwartz’s apartment Schwartz sweeps her off her feet Gone with the Wind-style and sits her on Maria’s lap. I don’t know if Mrs. Schwartz was intended to be but she was Sinner’s comedy relief. One of my favourite visual scenes was the early ferris wheel ride. Franco shoots the scene from several angles which gives it a real sense of menace. We feel Linda’s distress as the wheel seems to go round and round endlessly. She looks around desperately each time the wheel is at ground level hoping someone sees what is going on and stops the nightmarish ride. She pushes him away, the camera at times just inches from her anguished face. When the ride is over Mr. Ortiz rushes off leaving Linda sitting on the ferris wheel violated and aghast. This is Linda’s first experience in the city. We never learn why Linda doesn’t pack up her bags and leave right then and there. Linda stays on in the city even after a second violation by her new boss. It is insinuated that Linda’s homelife was unhappy. “I remember my village, my grandmother. She was the only one of my family who had any heart. The only one who understood me. Maybe I should have stayed with her. If God exists, I hope he hasn’t been as hard on her as he has on me.” Although we never learn specific details it never gets in the way of how the character evolves over the course of the film. Since Sinner begins at the end of the story, there is not a reveal for the viewer per se; although certainly Rosa Ortiz gets her closure. In Linda’s own words “I finally realized that fucking is really all I like to do.” “I want to give my body and my love to all my brothers and sisters. To all those whom life has offered only pain and misery.” Sinner as its alternative title suggests is a cinematic interpretation of the Diary of a Nymphomaniac; the story of a woman whose only pleasure in life was sex and whose abusive history led her to commit suicide at the age of twenty. Sinner has made me very excited to fill in the rest of the holes in my Franco viewing. Sinner/Diary of a Nymphomaniac gets my highest of recommendations; a perfect score.
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Jesús Franco
Starring: Jacqueline Laurent, Montserrat Prous, Kali Hansa, Francisco Acosta, Manuel Pereiro, Howard Vernon, Doris Thomas, Anne Libert