Ranking Our Films In 2018 – IV
Amy, Jac, Mila and the team had been very busy since December 2010 with two big production budget films,Maleficarum and BARBAZUL. When they were done with Maleficarum Jac thought that it would be a good idea to use the amazing dungeon for another movie. They could still pay a month rent for a quikie. Jac had a lingering idea, a film he wanted to shoot with Amy, Le Marquis De La Croix.
Amy had another idea, why not make Le Marquis with Mila instead and with herself as Director. She had lots of fun directing both Jac and Mila in BARBAZUL and she felt there was something very intense between them that could work very well in Le Marquis, the same overpowering presence Jac had over poor, defenseless Mila.
Jac liked the idea. Without a script, but with a good solid idea of what to do, they set out to redecorate the set and made The Rack the main instrument in view. Before the month of March was over Mila was whipped, beaten, racked, Strappado, whipped again and crucified and more, all for the whims and pleasures of Le Marquis De La Croix.
The wealthy marquis, sentenced to his prison confines (luxurious as they are), writes lurid accounts of his sexual imaginations. Fortunately for his perverse addictions, an occasional condemned female criminal is brought to him for a price. Such is the case with Zynga, a gypsy girl sentenced to death, as the marquis tells us, for “three crimes: murder, theft, and arson” (borrowed incidentally from the Marquis de Sade’s 1791 novel, Justine). The film explores the tortures Zynga endures and her eventual demise. The story is presented as a narration extracted from the marquis’ writings in his cell. As he completes one torment and plans the next, the aristocrat returns to his desk to record his thoughts and lets the viewer into his mind via voice over. The bound and naked Zynga is the consistent background image and the main motif throughout the film.
In Praise of Mila
Le Marquis is Mila Joya’s film. It’s hard to imagine any other actress as Zynga, the gypsy. A lissom, statuesque girl with a body that begs to be displayed in all its glory, the native Bolivian is the perfect torture victim; she graces every scene with an eroticism that is never overtly intentional but commands every cinematic moment. In bringing Zynga to the screen, Mila whimpers, cries out, and looks pleadingly at the marquis, all the while amusing his perversities. Her most talented feature is her eyes. The pain and desperation she projects through them equips her to excel in this type of role.
Pay particular attention to how Mila handles the humiliation of hunger. Wrists and ankles shackled, she slithers on the floor to nibble a scrap of bread her tormentor casually tosses aside in an arrogant gesture of contempt. Mila fashions Zynga’s sadness into an image so imposing that the camera can’t stay away. Cinematographer Miguel Inti Canedo’s lens absorbs the native Bolivian’s agony while celebrating her beauty in shots that offer frequent close-ups that place the viewer into the scene with her.
Developing the character of Zynga requires few lines of dialogue but a ton of emotion and suffering. Mila accomplishes both while physically coping with whippings that leave real marks on her flesh. Minutes of filming are spent framing her contortions that become the overriding images of Le Marquis.
As mentioned previously, they are the frozen moments that stamp the film with the high honor of pure artistic expression. For the record, Mila’s story reminds me of an icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Lana Turner, who at sixteen skipped school and headed to a local drugstore where the right person caught a glimpse of her. It’s the stuff of legends, of course, revealing that the opportunity of discovery is never far away.