Tuesday, December 2, 2008
A typical Jean Rollin filmography will list only twenty or so films but, in actuality, this is not really the case. Starting in 1973 Rollin began shooting certain films under the pseudonyms of Michel Gentil and later as Robert Xavier. These films, numbering in the dozens, are cheap mostly adult fair that Rollin himself admits were made strictly for money. While none of them are up to par with Rollin's 'official' work, I want Fascination to be as comprehensive as possible so I will be including posts on these films, at least the few that I have in my collection so far. I can't imagine a Jean Rollin page that doesn't mention a striking and incredibly Rollinesque work like 1975's Phantasmes or, the film that this post will cover, 1973's Jeunes Filles Impudiques.
The first 'Michel Gentil' production, Jeunes Filles Impudiques (sometimes known as High School or Schoolgirl Hitchhikers), began to take shape while Rollin was shooting Requiem for a Vampire. Rollin recalled to Peter Blumenstock in Virgins and Vampires and Video Watchdog that producer, "Lionel (Wallmann) obliged me to put some sex scenes in Requiem-during the dungeon sequence. I told him that I wasn't too fond of that kind of thing, and he answered, "But you do that kind of thing very well. If we made an entire film like that, I bet it would be successful. You may not like it, but you know how to do it." Rollin continued with, 'Okay, I'll do it, but I won't invest any of my own money into it.' Well he raised the money, we made the film and he was right." Hence, the first Michel Gentil film was born and shooting commenced right after Requiem wrapped.
Outside of its obvious importance in Jean Rollin's canon as the first 'Gentil' film, Jeunes Filles Impudiques's also marks the first time Rollin worked with the stunning French actress Joelle Coeur, a talented and extremely charismatic figure who would prove to be one of Rollin's most memorable performers in 1974's Demoniacs. There will be much more to come on Coeur here in the near future.
Jeunes Filles Impudiques is an admittedly slight film. It looks to only really operate as a soft core sex film and it does so quite well. Seasoned Rollin fans though will notice that this is very much a 'Jean Rollin picture'. The opening images of our two lead female characters walking alone and stumbling on a seemingly abandoned mansion will immediately remind fans of some of Rollin's most iconic work (including the masterful film he had just completed) as will the camera's obsession with the antiquities of the house. Jeunes Filles Impudiques might just be a shot on the cheap quickie sex film, but there is a lot more to it than that. From the unmistakable photography and lighting of Jean Jacques Renon (working here as Oscar Lapin) to the playful score by Pierre Raph, Jeunes Filles Impudiques is a fascinating little entry in Rollin's filmography and its a shame that a decent uncut print is so hard to come by.
The incredibly slight plot, which feels like it might have been sketched out in one long alcohol fueled evening, concerns two hikers who get caught up with a band of jewel thieves who have taken over a villa in the French countryside. Filled with Rollin's trademark unexpected camera angles (one particular shot through a mirror early on is a model of how to shoot a low budget film quickly without sacrificing any style), infectiously goofy gunfights and a fun nonsensical ending that feels like everyone just shrugging any semblance of story off, Jeunes Filles Impudiques is one of the most purely entertaining films Rollin shot in this period.
Working with the haunting Coeur (who is just so endlessly delightful here) is Gilda Arancio (who would later work on Rollin's unfortunate Zombie Lake in 1981), Francoise Brincourt, Pierre Julien, fetching Marie Helene Regne and Rollin regular Willy Braque (whom, like Coeur is making his first appearance for his most famous director here). Most surprising and pleasing is the fact that Rollin himself pops up towards the end in an unbilled cameo sharing some screen time with Coeur.
Jeunes Filles Impudiques isn't any sort of grand masterpiece but it never aims for any such lofty goal. It would be an easy film to pick apart, but why bother? It's an entertaining little offering from a period in film history that was able to produce a cheap picture like this, in an incredibly short time, that is still filled with a certain amount of style and personal vision. Simply put, it's just not the kind of film being made anymore.
Rollin's first Michel Gentil film is easiest to find in America on the 20 film collection The Grindhouse Experience. Unfortunately this full frame English dubbed version is cut and missing just under ten minutes (this is also the only version I have ever seen so I can't comment on what's missing).
The Grindhouse print is filled with splices, scracthes and imperfections...in other words it looks exactly like what you would think a low budget sex film from this period would look like. Quality issues aside, it is still easy to admire Rollin's shooting style and Renon's sometimes trippy photography with this version, and fans shouldn't hesitate to put down the money for this (iffy) public domain set.
I'm quite fond of Jeunes Filles Impudiques. Refreshingly engaging in its silliness it must have provided Rollin a little relief in the short period he had before he shot what would prove to be one of his heaviest and haunting films, The Iron Rose. Hopefully an uncut pristine print of Jeunes Filles Impudiques will appear one day, until then track it down where you can.