Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Fascination Q&A With Kino Lorber's Bret Wood

I hope everyone had a very happy holiday season and that 2012 is getting off to a great start. Tonight I have the great pleasure of presenting this new Q&A I have conducted with filmmaker and Kino Lorber Producer Bret Wood on the upcoming Jean Rollin releases that all of us are so excited about. 2012 is going to be a great time for Jean Rollin fans and I've got some big stuff planned for Fascination as well. I think this interview is a great way to kick-off what is going to be an exciting year. A huge thank you to Bret for taking time out of his busy schedule to participate in this for us.

To begin with can you tell us a bit about Kino Lorber and some of the great archival work the company has done in the past?

Kino Lorber is a film/video distributor that focuses on independent and international cinema. As a DVD/BluRay producer, my primary focus has been the archival releases (previously on the Kino International label; now Kino Classics). Among the films we're famous for are the Buster Keaton films, various versions of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, the films of Erich von Stroheim, D.W. Griffith, and others. We work with the major archives (as well as with collectors) to try and create the definitive versions of classic films, and supplement them with as much bonus material as our resources allow. Some of my classic projects in 2012 include Louis Feuillade's serial Les Vampires (BluRay and DVD), three early films by Fritz Lang previously unavailable in the U.S. (Hara-Kiri, The Wandering Shadow, and Four Around a Woman: DVD only), and Keaton's The Navigator.

Kino is a wonderful company so I was thrilled when they acquired these Jean Rollin titles. How did all of this come about?

Kino Lorber formed a partnership with Redemption as a practical matter. Redemption's contracts with its current distributor were expiring and Redemption founder Nigel Wingrove was looking for someone to keep the films in print and more aggressively market their library. We quickly realized that the Redemption library contains a lot of fascinating films that deserve to be treated with respect and marketed not only to horror fans but traditional cinephiles. It is our hope that by carefully remastering the films and presenting them as important rediscoveries, supplemented with interviews and other bonus material, we can expand the audience for Jean Rollin's films -- and build a label that will offer the same treatment to other cult directors.

Tell us about the Rollin titles coming in January and will they only be available on Region 1 discs?

The first wave of releases will be comprised of five titles: The Nude Vampire, The Shiver of the Vampires, The Iron Rose, Lips of Blood and Fascination. With Redemption's blessing, the DVDs and BluRays will not be region-restricted. The only territory (to my knowledge) where the films will not be commercially available is France, where the films are controlled by another party.

Will we be seeing more Rollin titles from Kino in the future after this first batch is released?

Absolutely. We've already mastered four additional titles in HD, and are putting into motion two additional Rollin films.

The stills and clips that have been released from the upcoming titles look amazing. Were they remastered from the original negatives and can you take us through that process a bit?

Redemption controls the original negatives of Rollin's films, and these were shipped to the U.S. where I oversaw the transfer of the elements to video. The process we followed was to scan the films on a Spirit Datacine machine and saved as digital files. We then color-corrected these raw files with a Baselight system and carefully balanced the colors and density of the picture -- aiming not only for visual consistency but also trying to give the films a more "intentional" look. What I mean by that is this. If you simply transfer the negatives and aim for maximum color and clarity, you will end up with a film that is very bright and colorful and lacking in character. Some of the previous Redemption masters have this look (The Living Dead Girl and Demoniacs are probably the best examples). I tried to give the films a more subtle look. Scenes that occur outdoors at night now look as though they occur in moonlight, rather than beneath a bright spotlight (if you compare the old and new versions of The Iron Rose, you'll see what I mean). This wasn't easy. Some of Rollin's night scenes were shot in broad daylight, and it took a lot of experimentation to find the proper visual balance (Requiem for a Vampire suffered from this problem). At times, Rollin uses bold color very intentionally, and I preserved this whenever possible. I believe viewers who have seen the old Rollin editions will gratified to see how atmospheric the cinematography is, when properly mastered.

I can't stress enough what a rare opportunity this has been for me. Someone who produces DVDs and BluRays lives for the chance to help rediscover a neglected filmmaker. But to have access to that filmmaker's original negatives is almost unheard of. And not just the negatives to a handful of films, but almost his complete body of work. It boggles my mind and I really hope that I can do Rollin justice.

While getting pristine copies of these special films is top-priority, a lot of us are also interested in the supplemental material that will appear on the discs. Can you tell us a bit about some of that material?

Organizing supplemental features is an ongoing challenge. The Dutch editions, released on DVD by Encore, have amazing extras, but we were unable to license those for these editions. Since Rollin died in December 2010, we had to rely upon previously existing material. Redemption had some interviews that had been previously issued on their DVDs, and we repurposed a couple of those. I was fortunate to come in contact with Daniel Gouyette, who worked with Rollin for several years, and shot a number of interviews with Rollin as well as Natalie Perrey (who worked as an actress, script supervisor, costume designer, and pretty much everything else for Rollin). Daniel was gracious enough to share these interviews, and they comprise the bulk of the new bonus material. I've just made contact with someone who has a lengthy videotaped interview with Rollin and we're negotiating for the right to include it on a future BluRay release.
My personal favorite of the special features are the interviews with Natalie Perrey. She tells a story about the making of Lips of Blood -- how difficult the production was, how she was on the verge of giving up, and how something happened that inspired her to carry on -- that never fails to put a lump in my throat. Rollin was fortunate to have such a loyal collaborator, and we are fortunate to have someone who can talk about the making of the films with such a sharp memory, sharp wit, and profound insights.

While this is such an exciting time to be a Jean Rollin fan, I know a lot of us are filled with sadness that he couldn’t see these new releases happen. Did you get a chance to ever meet him in your preparations for these releases?

I wasn't involved in this project until May 2011, by which time Rollin had been dead about five months. It is tragic that he did not live to enjoy the resurgence of interest in his work. It saddens me greatly to think that -- had he lived a couple more years -- the re-release of his films on BluRay might have rekindled enough interest in his work that someone might have funded another project. Unfortunately, there will be no new Jean Rollin films, so we had better treasure the ones that we have.

Turner Classic Movies recently showed my personal favorite Rollin film The Iron Rose. Do you know if they might be willing to air perhaps more titles in the future, and did you hear any feedback of the showing of The Iron Rose?

The Iron Rose aired on TCM thanks to the support of Millie De Chirico (who essentially curates their "TCM Underground" slot) and Senior V.P. of Programming Charles Tabesh. Both Millie and Charlie have expressed interest in broadcasting other Rollin films. The difficulty is in the fairly explicit sex and violence that appear in Rollin's films. To their credit, TCM does not edit films, and has gotten steadily more bold in its presentation of R-rated material... so we all hope and expect to see more of Jean Rollin's films on the network. But the films will have to be carefully selected and presented in order to not offend more traditional viewers (or TCM's Standards and Practices department).

Tell us a bit about how you initially discovered Rollin and what your own personal favorites are.

I first learned about Rollin from the magazine Video Watchdog (of which I've been an avid reader from issue #1). To be honest, I was skeptical of some of the praise that was being heaped upon the films. "If the films are that unique," I thought, "Why haven't I heard of them?" When I finally saw one, I was quickly humbled. The films were every bit as hypnotic and poetic and fantastic as VW editor Tim Lucas said they were. And I set out to track down copies of every Rollin film I could get my hands on (not always an easy task). I was proud to bring Tim into the project and ask him to write an essay for the first wave of releases. He also consulted with me about which titles to release first. He deserves the lion's share of the praise for reviving interest in Rollin's work.

Prior to working on the new masters, Fascination was always my favorite. But now that I've seen the movies repeatedly, backwards and forwards, I probably like The Shiver of the Vampires best. But then, as soon as I say that, I remember things that I love about The Iron Rose (the spinning camera, Françoise Pascal's performance), Lips of Blood (how heartfelt and personal it is), The Nude Vampire (the opening sequences) and I start second-guessing myself.

Finally, I know you are a filmmaker in your own right. Can you tell us a bit about your own work and what some of your future goals and plans are?

I'm generally drawn to stories that explore perverse sexuality, and the psychological chess matches that people engage in as they navigate the treacherous waters of "morality." Last year I made a feature film called The Little Death, which Kino Lorber will release on DVD in February 2012. The DVD will include a 17-minute short, entitled The Other Half, that I made the previous year. My other credits include the documentary Hell's Highway: The True Story of Highway Safety Films (about the notorious death-on-the-highway driver's ed films of the 1960s) and the narrative film Psychopathia Sexualis.

Wish me luck. I'm in planning stages of a feature film entitled The Control Group, which I hope to shoot in 2012.

Thanks so much Bret and all the best of luck on your upcoming projects! Again, we really appreciate all your hard work and can’t thank you enough for helping to get these upcoming Rollin titles out. Thanks also for this doing this Q&A!

It's my pleasure, and I look forward to keeping you and your readers up-to-date on future projects.

Wonderful, thanks again Bret. This was a real pleasure!



Steve Langton said...

This will be an amazing series of releases, and fans who read this will be in no doubt that the picture quality will be stunning. It's clear a whole lot of love and care has gone into this project, and thanks for this excellent Q&A.

Daniel Orion Davis said...

Jeremy, thanks so much for conducting and sharing this terrific interview. The news that there's as many as six more Rollin blu's in the pipeline makes my day and reading about the effort that went to remastering these films has me even more excited about the 24th -- and I didn't think that was possible!

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks very much for the nice comments Steve and Daniel. I was thrilled to have Bret take part in this and it is wonderful knowing that some of Rollin's greatest works are in such caring hands. Thanks again!

barrowc said...

Thanks for the interview. Looking forward to these Blurays even more now

Ryan Clark said...

Thanks for this great interview, Jeremy and Bret. I can't wait for these releases! Jean Rollin was such an underrated genius!!

night person said...

Reviews are up:



Soukesian said...

Great interview - thought Bret's Psychopathia Sexualis was really interesting and stylish piece of work. I'm sure Rollin's cinema is in good hands here and look forward to seeing the remasters.