More Francoean than Sadean and more erotic than pornographic, the film fully demonstrates the director’s background as a musician via its endlessly music-filled landscapes and thankfully it does not wallow in the degenerate jazz that the filmmaker played, as a work that makes full use of Liszt’s Second Concerto with Franco's own strangely soothing synthesizer score to the point where hysterical mental illness, truly evil extramarital deceit, sadomasochistic sexual savagery, and even nun rapes become rather rapturous and orgasmically oneiric experiences of the exceedingly aesthetically enthralling and hyper hypnotic sort. Indeed, forget Franco’s West German jet-set arthouse nightmare Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden (1968) aka Succubus—an intriguing, if not innately incoherent, work that somewhat strangely namedrops seemingly unlikely influences like Fritz Lang and Jean-Luc Godard (Franco must have been a huge Le mépris (1963) aka Contempt fan—or his psychedelic Leopold von Sacher Masoch (non)adaptation Paroxismus (1969) aka Venus in Furs, Sinfonía erotica is the auteur at his most brazenly aesthetically decadent and indulgent. Notably, like Venus in Furs, the film bears a superficial resemblance to Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s esoteric collaborative effort Last Year at Marienbad (1961) due to its dreamlike essence and extravagant château setting and baroque architecture and sculptures, albeit Franco’s film is undeniably more erotic and coherent. Also notable for being a rare Franco flick featuring explicit fag content and not just the superficial ‘Sapphic’ scenarios that are quite typical of his work (not that the film does not feature some iconic ‘cunning linguist’ scenes between Romay and a young lady), Sinfonía erotica would probably be deemed ‘homophobic’ today as the antihero is depicted as a sadistic bisexual misogynist and unrepentant wife-abuser who, among other things, fiendishly grabs his male negro servant’s ass and brags to his undersexed wife about how much pleasure his twink boyfriend gives him while said boyfriend passionately fellates him.
It is the golden age of blueblood degeneracy in old world Europa and Martine de Bressac (Lina Romay)—a wild and wanton yet cutesy big bosomed faux-blonde whose ample mammary glands are only rivaled by her similarly grand eyes and lips who moves around like a sensual somnambulist hunting for a rock hard cock that she will certainly never find—is the somewhat estranged wife of an overtly evil and decidedly debauched aristocrat named Marqués Armando de Bressac (Armando Borges in his sole film role) who has just gotten out of a mental hospital after staying there a number of years as a result of schizophrenia provoked by hereditary syphilis. While her rather empathetic caretaker Dr. Louys (Albino Graziani of 1982 ‘classic’ Oasis of the Zombies aka La tumba de los muertos vivientes) drives her back to her ancient luxury estate in a carriage, Martine pseudo-poetically asks herself, “Are the leaves newly colored by the summer sun? Or are they the same ones as when I left? I know every leaf that fell in the Autumn…fell like pieces of my life. I don’t know how much time has passed since I left the house. And I don’t know why my husband sent me away.” Dr. Louys lets Martine know that it has been years since she was locked up in the loony bin and then expresses his doubt over the Marquis’ decision to have her institutionalized in the first place, to which she replies with the rather confused remark, “Everything will go the way you and I planned. Everything will go as he and I planned…Everything conforms to our desires. May luck be with us…and if we are good and have faith in God…Then heaven will accept us. Heaven! What is the point? And where is hell? Who…really knows what evil is? And who can truly judge? Where does the day end…And where does the night begin? When does pride start and self-esteem end? What is sin?” If one thing is for sure, it is that Martine’s husband is a conspiring debauchee with exceedingly unsavory intentions and he is certainly a threat to his younger wife’s very existence.
Among other things, the Marquis Armando de Bressac is carrying on a lurid love affair with a young curly-haired twink named ‘Flore’ aka ‘Flower’ (Mel Rodrigo of Franco’s Slave of Crime (1987) aka Esclavas del crimen and Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo (1980) aka Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties), who turned into a homo after his parents dressed him up in dresses as a child and showed him off in front of their friends. Armando and Flore’s homo twosome turns into a bisexual threesome after the two depraved androphiles find a bloody nun named Norma (Susan Hemingway of Franco's legendary nunsploitation flick Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977) aka Die Liebesbriefe einer portugiesischen Nonne) on the latter’s estate and make her the third member of their morbid little ménage à trios. Assumedly because she has been irreparably defiled and can no longer devote her body and mind to god, Norma begs Armando to let her stay at his less than humble abode, even after she awakens to the debauched aristocrat and his butt beau Flores fingering her bloody post-rape meat curtain. Meanwhile, Martine’s extremely loyal servant Wanda (Aida Gouveia, who also starred in Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun, as well as other Franco works like Swedish Nympho Slaves (1977) aka Die Sklavinne) warns her that her husband Armando is carrying on a lurid fag love affair with Flore, who she states “seems to be sent by the devil” and speaks of “ancient morality” as if he is a vampire. Of course, Martine is in denial that her husband is a homo, stating to Wanda that, “my husband is not a homosexual” (of course, she is only half right). To make matters worse, Martine is sex starved (or as she states herself, “I must make love or I’ll go insane”) because her discernibly deranged hubby will not hump her, so instead she fingers herself and subsequently sucks on her finger as if sucking on her spouse’s scat-covered cock. In one particularly disturbing scene, Martine walks in on bitch boy Flore giving her husband a blowjob and when Armando notices his wife meekly peeping on him, he sinisterly yells, “Martine. Why are you hiding? I know you’re there. Come and watch! Maybe you’ll learn something from my friend. He knows how to give me pleasure…what are you waiting for?” Of course, Armando has more pernicious plans for Martine than merely mocking her with the fact that he is preternaturally penetrating the man-cunt of a pansy pretty boy.
After Armando strangles Wanda to death upon learning that she told Dr. Louys of his intention to kill his wife, Martine seems to have no one to protect her and becomes completely vulnerable, especially to the lethally lecherous charms of Norma. One day, Martine comes into Norma’s room early in the morning after drinking some assumedly poisoned milk and begins performing cunnilingus on the once-holy unholy young woman and before the two know it, Armando and Flore wander in and a foursome begins. Indeed, for the first time in the film, Armando begins penetrating his wife just as she has begged several times before throughout the flick and just before the foursome almost turns into an interracial fivesome when a negro servant named George (played by Philippines-based production manager George Santos) abruptly walks into the room, Martine drops dead during mid-coitus, or so it seems. Naturally, Armando and his lovers mock Martine by chanting, “Poor Martine. She’s dead. Poor Martine” over and over again. After Martine’s death, Armando becomes jealous of Flore and Norma’s love affair and states to his negro servant George when he asks if he is surprised about the fact that his boyfriend has found true love with a woman, “Flore is a child. He doesn’t have any understanding of evil nor of morality. But you don’t have a right to judge him.” Predictably jealous of the fact that his beloved boy toy has discovered true love in female form, Armando kills the two by psycho-sexually penetrating them both with a sword while Flore is penetrating Norma with his cock. Unlike with Martine, Armando is rather upset after killing his beautiful man-muse Flore and begins sobbing like a baby next to his and Norma’s still joined corpse. Needless to say, Armando is rather shocked when his dead wife Martine appears wearing an opened purplish-pink robe exposing all her naughty bits while he is sobbing and he asks his assumedly undead wife, “You! Are you returned from Hell? Have you come to help me or participate in my destruction?,” to which the sensual phantom replies, “I’ve returned to see you die,” adding, “...and now you’ll pay once and for all for everything!” Somewhat surprisingly, Armando thanks her for coming and begs for death, yelling to Martine, “Why are you waiting? Do it! Do it!” Of course, Martine obliges Armando and after killing him, she meets up with Dr. Louys, who states to her, “My love, have courage. Life begins again for you.” As it turns out, Dr. Louys plotted to have Martine fake her death, so they could later seek revenge against Armando and run away together with the Marquis’ wealth. As Dr. Louys states to Martine after revealing that he has already written Armando’s death certificate, “you must forget these old walls and this sad story.”
A raunchy and risqué yet elegant erotic dark romance that indubitably proves that auteur Jess Franco was somewhat surprisingly one of the most cultivated pornographers of his time, Sinfonía erotica is surely an unsung masterpiece as far as Euro-sleaze erotica is concerned. Indeed, in its depiction of a tragic ménage à trios and titillating Teutonophilia, Franco’s flick is certainly superior to Italian auteur Liliana Cavani's similarly themed arthouse work Beyond Good and Evil (1977) aka Al di là del bene e del male aka Seeds of Evil, which is a costume piece that depicts a fictional threesome between German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, white Russian psychoanalyst and perennial muse Lou Andreas-Salomé, and German-Jewish philosopher Paul Rée, with the latter of whom being absurdly depicted as dying as a result of a homosexual gang-rape as committed by a group of sexually virile lumpenproles who demonstrate the power of their Teutonic sexual prowess over their victim’s impotent Judaic intellectualism. Unquestionably, aside from Franco’s shockingly artsy fartsy direction as immaculately accented by Franz Liszt's Second Concerto, Sinfonía erotica owes a large portion of its pleasantly perverse potency to Lina Romay’s audaciously amorous no bullshit performance, as she seems as genuinely unconsciously hysterical as she seems hyper horny. Indeed, one certainly gets the feeling while watching the film that the filmmaker worships his muse, whose unclad body becomes a virtual character of its own in the film. Despite the film’s almost high-camp aristocratic setting that oozes with rot and decadence, bestial and almost satanic homo-sex scenes, and exceedingly effete wardrobe and quasi-male characters, Sinfonía erotica is the work where Franco—the hyper-heterosexual swarthy Spaniard—most reinforces his rampant heterosexuality by depicting an over-the-hill bisexual blueblood dandy bastard who sinisterly betrays his rather beauteous wanton wife as the ultimate highly heinous and exceedingly evil antagonist, which is certainly a more nuanced way of declaring his love of lecherous women and hatred of homophilia than featuring an unclad pseudo-diva being haunted by a ghostly big black dildo like he did in his classic uniquely unnerving zombie flick A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973) aka La nuit des étoiles filante. Indeed, with this film, Franco almost seems to channel the decadent poetry of Italian proto-fascist poet-warrior Gabriele D'Annunzio, who I am sure would find something to like about the work due to its dapper celluloid decadence, though I do not want to give him too much credit. Indeed, Sinfonía erotica is ultimately the film that made me realize that I am more of a Franco, as opposed to Jean Rollin, kind of guy when it comes to sloppy quasi-artsy horndog Euro-horror.