Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Coming near the beginning of a long line of actresses playing some of the most beautiful and erotic vampires in screen history, French born Caroline Cartier makes quite a big impression as the title character in Jean Rollin’s first color feature, 1970’s La Vampire Nue (The Nude Vampire).
Unfortunately, unlike many of Rollin's other major productions, La Vampire Nue has still yet to be granted a major special Edition DVD release (although the British release which I have yet to see is said to contain an interview with Rollin). This, and the fact that I can’t find much of Rollin speaking directly on her, makes Cartier’s sole appearance in a Rollin feature a bit hard to write on in regards to it.
Born just after World War Two in Avignon, the lovely Cartier did some modeling in the sixties before making her big screen debut in La Vampire Nue. Very striking looking, with a real modern feel about her, Cartier is fairly unforgettable in Rollin’s film, even though it isn’t exactly a role that calls for her to stretch much as an actress. She is mostly called on to look simultaneously ravishing and mysterious, and she handles both duties quite well. Rollin would later recall in Virgins and Vampires that she was "extraordinarily charming" and that comes through as well in the film.
Rollin’s film would lead Cartier to quite a nice career in the seventies, including work in a number of major French films and television productions. She is probably best known for her work in Guy Gilles 1974 feature Le Jardin qui Bascule (The Garden that Tilts) opposite Delphine Seyrig, but it would be a meeting with actress Jeanne Moreau while shooting Andre Techine’s Souvenirs d’en France (French Provincial) in 1975 that would lead to her greatest role (outside of Rollin’s work) in Moreau’s own Lumiere in 1976.
The Cesar nominated Lumiere marks Moreau’s writing and directorial debut and it is telling that she gave one of the film’s largest roles to Cartier. The film, which continues to split the critical establishment, shows Cartier to be a far more gifted performer than perhaps previously imagined and it’s a shame it didn’t lead to more work for the young actress.
Caroline Cartier would continue making films and television productions for the next ten years, but she never equaled her work in Lumiere. Her final film came in 1987 with Alain Tanner’s La Vallee Fantome, in which she got to work opposite legendary Jean-Louis Trintignant. Cartier would tragically pass away far too young in August of 1991, leaving behind a number of films that marked her as a talented and versatile actress.
Hopefully La Vampire Nue will eventually get the Encore Special Edition it deserves with a Rollin commentary where he can go into detail on his memories of this beguiling young actress...until then she remains as mysterious as the iconic character she plays.