horror-sleaze from 1975. A pompously psychedelic, nudity-filled account of
witchcraft in the French countryside, A WOMAN POSSESSED was banned for many
years in its native land, which is pretty hard to believe these days.
Why was LA PAPESSE (titled A WOMAN POSSESSED in the English speaking world)
banned in France (which really takes some doing)? Honestly, I have no
idea. Perhaps French censors were shocked by the copious full frontal nudity,
but it’s not as if this was the first film, French or otherwise, to feature such
a high volume of naked flesh. The suppression was more likely due to the very
real possibility of mass walk-outs by disgruntled moviegoers!
The film’s director Mario Mercier had in 1972 made EROTIC WITCHCRAFT (LA
GOULVE), which like A WOMAN POSSESSED was a druggy, gory and quite silly melange
of sex, witchcraft and sheer nonsense.
Laurent, a seemingly normal young man, is looking to join a witches’ sect
that resides in a forest near his house. The only thing is Laurent’s wife Aline
also needs to join the sect in order to complete his initiation. Aline is
understandably reluctant, so the sect’s heads design a series of events designed
to break her down: she begins to experience freaky hallucinations and gets
raped. Things come to a head during a nighttime bacchanal from which Aline
manages to break away, but she’s chased down by a strong-arm who for some reason
walls her up in a cave. Aline misses out on a lot of naked ladies dancing
spasmiodically, but ends up raped--again--by a hallucinatory creature.
The next morning Aline once again escapes her imprisonment, but not for
long. The guy who captured her the night before gives chase, this time bringing
a vicious dog that gores Aline’s neck, effectively ending her days as a
witch...or anything else.
Nearly every tacky seventies film convention you can think of is (over)used
in this film: intrusive zooms, jarring electronic music and gratuitous
psychedelic interludes (at times the photography suddenly turns infrared for no
apparent reason). The make-up and “special” effects are better left
unmentioned, and there’s little to admire on the acting front.
The sad thing is that the film actually has some intriguing elements--or at
least, elements that could have been intriguing had the filmmakers shown
any conviction. The narrative has an authentically (accidental?)
dreamlike arc in its straightforward presentation of sorcery. Even more
promising is the utter lack of any sort of conventional morality. Good and evil
don’t enter into this film’s outlook--one is either a witch or one isn’t. But
again, these are could-bes, possible only if the film wasn’t such an
A WOMAN POSSESSED (LA
Director: Mario Mercier
Producer: Robert Paillardon
Screenplay: Mario Mercier
Cinematography: Robert Schneider
Cast: Jean-Francois Delatour, Geziale, Lisa Livane, Erika Maaz, Lina Olsen,
Mathias von Huppert