Looking for hold-up stockings in the cinematic world is usually a waiting game. You could sit motionless for hours on end waiting for the hold-up stockings your thigh-high-obsessed aura so sanely desires, yet still come up empty at the end of the day. Well, your days of waiting for nylon-based satisfaction are over, my friend, as Jess Franco's Sinner: The Secret Diary of a Nymphomaniac (a.k.a. Le journal intime d'une nymphomane) is here to soothe, caress, and gently grope all your hosiery-related needs with the sheerest form of aplomb ever to exist. Circumventing the usual Jess Franco tropes that typically open his films (arty shots of flowers and ornamental grasses swaying in the breeze), we're immediately greeted by two shapely pairs of exquisitely crafted legs, encased in the smoothest black hold-up stockings money can buy, intertwined together in a fashion that caused them to look like a human pretzel. Oh, and when I say, "immediately," I don't mean five seconds, eight seconds, or even ten seconds. I'm talking about hold-up stockings in your face right from the get-go. In fact, it was so quick, that my mind had a hard time adjusting to what it had just seen. You see, I'm not used to watching films that get things right in such an efficient manner. It usually takes three or four scenes for me to properly gauge a film's worthiness as a work of art. But this particular undertaking, which could be seen as the non-supernatural companion piece to Jess Franco's Lorna The Exorcist, managed to win me over during its opening frame. However, unlike most Jess Franco films, this one does not star Soledad Miranda (The Devil Came from Akasava) or Lina Romay (Isla: The Wicked Warden), which, if you ask me, is a risky endeavour. In other words, you can throw all the hold-up stockings in the world at me, that doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to roll over and ignore the fact that your film is terrible. Sure, I'll praise the aspects that are genuinely titillating. But I'm not going to blindly ignore its glaring flaws, either.
Despite being soft to the touch, hold-up stockings, pantyhose, and thigh-high boots are merely inanimate objects when you get right down to it. What really matters is the corporeal character of the fleshy contents that have been lovingly pored into them. That's right, fetishism is a two way street. While I'm sure there are people out there who are to able to attain stain-friendly fulfillment from just the object alone. Let me be blunt: I am not one of those people. The relationship between the object and the person wearing said object must be harmonious. Meaning, you can't have one without the other. A pair of fully-fashioned stockings resting on a table, while an arresting image, are nothing without the flesh to give them shape. Same goes for the flesh, as flesh without the aid of a silky pair of nylons is simply unacceptable.
"A true lady always wears powder on her nose and stockings on her legs." ~ Estée Lauder
It would seem that Sinner was made during the period of Jess Franco's career when the Soledad Miranda era was about to give way to the Lina Romay years. Given the unenviable task of filling the void left by Soledad Miranda (though, to be fair, the cinematic world had no idea what a dynamo Lina Romay would turn out to be) is the gorgeous Montserrat Prous, a striking brunette with all the attributes necessary to make it as a Jess Franco leading lady. First and foremost, she's not ashamed of her body, as she prances around half-naked without reproach. And secondly, she can writhe in erotic agony like nobody's business. It's true, her writhing technique is not quite as squirmy as Lina Romay, the queen of barely dressed distressed thrashing. But I thought her tossing and turning, whether the result of lust or intoxication, was admirable.
A nightclub stage bathed in red light is the where our erotic journey begins, but that's not where it starts. Actually, it starts on the stage of a nightclub, but that's not where the story begins. While I'm not quite satisfied with the way I worded that explanation, if it will have to do for now. Hold-up stockings, elaborate belly chains, unhurried caresses, drunken audience members, gold platform heels, and creepy, bass-heavy music is how we're introduced to world of Linda Vargas (Montserrat Prous), a stripper, a prostitute, sex fiend, and a drug addict who seems to be on one of them downward spiral thingies, the kind that suck the innocent dry.
After she's finished her performance, which, like I said, was a lesbian number that was bathed in red light and featured stockinged legs intertwined with one another, Linda asks a bald man with a mustache if he would like some "company." Moving to a booth (booth number seven, if I remember correctly - I can't believe my mind is able to recall such minor details) in the corner of the club, Linda and the man, one Mr. Ortiz (Manuel Pereiro), talk about Paris and drink champagne, and I mean lots of champagne.
The harsh, unflattering light of dawn hit Linda and Mr. Ortiz squarely between the eyes as they exit the nightclub. Inviting him to come over to her hotel room, Linda, who is now wearing a pair of black thigh-high boots with a short black dress, corrals the still inebriated lout onto the bed. You know Linda means business when it's revealed that she is not wearing any panties. During a lull in the sloppy foreplay, Linda pulls out a knife and begins to circle the bed. A passed out Mr. Ortiz doesn't realize it yet, but he's about to be framed for murder. Who's murder, you ask? Linda's murder, that's who. You mean? Yep. Sitting on the bed, Linda calls the police, pauses for a moment, and then she slits her own throat.
Waking up to find a dead prostitute in black thigh-high boots lying on top of him, Mr. Ortiz suddenly finds himself with a lot of explaining to do when the police burst in and see that he is holding a bloody knife. A cop, an Inspector Hernandez (Jess Franco), to be exact, tells Mr. Ortiz to sign some papers–you know, one's that pertain to admitting his guilt for the crime. Unsure if he actually killed the young woman in the black thigh-high boots, Mr. Ortiz decides not to sign the papers. Even though we know he didn't do it, he's having pretty hard time convincing the police and his wife, Ruth Ortiz (Jacqueline Laurent), otherwise.
As Mr. Ortiz is trying to explain to his wife that he is not a killer, I couldn't help but wonder how a such a creepy-looking lowlife ended up marrying a milfy goddess like Mrs. Ortiz. I mean, I'm nowhere as a creepy as Mr. Ortiz, so, where's my milfy goddess? It's not fair.
Determined to uncover the truth, Mrs. Ortiz begins to seek out Linda's associates. The first person on her stop is the Countess Anna de Monterey (Anne Libert), the leggy, which should go without saying, as everyone is leggy in this film, mistress of a guy named Paco (Francisco Acosta). Meeting her while practicing to be leggy on her balcony, Mrs. Ortiz asks the Countess about Linda's life. If, by the way, this storytelling technique sounds familiar, you're right, Sinner: The Secret Diary of a Nymphomaniac is Jess Franco's Citizen Kane, as each character Mrs. Ortiz runs into tells her the story of how Linda ended up where she did.
In order to properly understand how Linda wound up trying to frame a creepier than usual audience member at one of her burlesque-style shows for murder, the Countess tells us all about Linda's first day in the big city. Wearing a white dress with white shoes (you heard right, there's not a single pair of black thigh-high boots in sight during this sequence), Linda oozes pure innocence as she strolls down the boulevard. Acutely aware of this, uh-oh, Mr. Ortiz starts to follow her; no doubt using the red ribbons in her hair as some sort of perverted guidance system. Utilizing a hand held camera to capture this outdoor unsavouriness, Jess Franco creates a realistic sense of dread, as Mr. Ortiz is right on top of Linda as he stalks her along the beach and eventually to an amusement park. Buying her some cotton candy, Mr. Ortiz takes Linda on the big wheel. Barely waiting for the wheel to make one full go around, Mr. Ortiz is pawing at Linda with a series of unwanted gropes and untoward feels of a copped nature. As the molestation process goes from hand touching to penis-based poking, Linda tries to scream, but her cries for help are drowned out by the inane carnival music.
Clearly traumatized by what had just occurred, Linda sits there in a state of shock. Getting a job at a backroom sweatshop/laundry service, one that allows her to wear white pleated skirts, Linda is soon raped again, this time by her scumbag boss. Just as life in the big city is about to break her spirit (too much rape, not enough sunshine), Linda comes across the Countess and Paco in the throes of passion while delivering their laundry. Watching them from afar, Linda notices that the Countess wearing nothing but black hold-up stockings. I wonder if this is the first time Linda has seen a pair of hold-up stockings up close? Either way, Linda is intrigued by consensual sex, as it seems less unpleasant than the non-stop rape fest she's been experiencing over the past couple of weeks.
Spotting the impish little scamp spying on them in the corner, the Countess walks over to her and before she can say anything, Linda kisses her. Surprised by the softness of her mouth, Linda is enamoured with the Countness, who in return, takes the naive girl under her wing. Teaching her about the wonders of hold-up stockings, pantyhose, and, of course, wigs (the pigtails are quickly replaced by a large brunette wig), the Countess and Linda become best friends. However, despite the fact she says she's not jealous (she catches Linda and Paco getting it on), you could totally tell that their relationship is already on shaky ground.
When Paco dumps Linda to be with his wife (black pantyhose and gold platform shoes be damned), she interprets the Countess's lack of sympathy (she decides to go on holiday during the height of Linda's despair) to be a betrayal. Enter the cat-like gorgeousness of Maria Toledano (Kali Hansa), the definition of alluring, and also trouble. First noticing her dancing at the Lucky Ghost, a groovy as all get out nightclub that caters to the hip and happening of this far out universe, Linda is obsessed with Maria's body, which is sheathed in a colourful crochet number, platform heels, and, of course, tan pantyhose.
Sultry and languid, Maria, a stripper by night, who poses for pornographic pictures during the day, doesn't know it yet, but she is being pursued by a brattish brunette in black hold-up stockings. And it's during one of these photo shoots that Maria and Linda finally become acquainted with one another. Introduced when Mrs. Schwartz (Doris Thomas), the mannish photographer, lifts Linda (who is wearing a black dress covered in holes and a pair of black hold-up stockings) and places her on Maria's lap, which is adorned with an irregular belt buckle.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Ortiz, after engaging in some mild naked writhing, decides to meet with Maria to discuss Linda and her much talked about descent into madness. What does one wear when meeting a stylish stripper who does porn on the side? Well, thanks to Jess Franco, we get a scene that attempts to answer that very question. Of course, some might say that a scene like this is just gratuitous nonsense. I, on the other hand, respectively disagree, as I thought the scene where Jacqueline Laurent stands naked in front of her wardrobe gave us some much needed insight into the mindset of a desperate woman eager to discover the truth. The same could said for the scene where Doris Thomas does heroin and rubs her hairy, nylon-ensnared pussy with the receiver of a rotary telephone, but I won't; say it that is. As I think enough has been said about the subject.
After much erotic dilly-dallying, the diary, "the secret diary" of the film's title, that belonged to Linda finals surfaces. Reading from it for the benefit of the prudish Mrs. Ortiz (she confesses that she has never seen herself naked) while lounging on her bed in the buff (the caustic grip of her tan pantyhose having long been expunged), Maria covers the chapters in troubled Linda's life that involved pot parties, rehab clinics run by Howard Vernon, photo shoots for tall photogs in tiger print mini-skirts, nightclub debauchery, and, as usual, lot's of intense naked writhing.
Unique, in that, it's a non-women-in-prison, non-supernatural film with a mostly cohesive structure, Jess Franco's Sinner: The Secret Diary of a Nymphomaniac is a stand out release that's been lovingly restored by the fine folks at Mondo Macrabro (this and their Lorna The Exorcist release are probably the best DVDs in my modest collection - the covers are aesthetically pleasing and the picture quality for both is top-notch). In terms of mixing art with perversion, it's doesn't get any better than this. Hell, even the titular diary is a work of art; one that I would definitely buy if it was for sale at The Beguiling or wherever fine underground comics and graphic novels are sold.
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