Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jean Rollin: The Collaborators (Michele Delehaye)

What a truly remarkable career French character actor Michele Delehaye has had. In a career spanning more than forty years with almost a hundred films on his resume (including many with some of France’s greatest directors) the ‘Grandmaster’ in Jean Rollin’s La Vampire Nue has certainly carved out a very special place for himself in modern French cinema.
Born in France in 1929 to a very strict and religious father, the early life of Delehaye was certainly an adventurous one, and it included stints at a Jesuit school, a spot in the military, postal and factory work as well as a minor brush with the law. By the mid-fifties Delehaye got his first major career break when he landed a job as a writer for Detective magazine. Soon after he made the acquaintance of one Eric Rohmer and his life changed forever.
The legendary Rohmer introduced Delehaye to the members of the French New Wave and soon he was working as a critic at the influential Cahiers du Cinema. He would write for the prestigious film journal for more than a decade before losing his position in 1969 due to political issues.
Delehaye’s first film role came in Jean-Luc Godard’s section of the 1964 anthology film Ro.Go.Pa.G and it would set in motion a career that would turn out to be incredibly prolific and noteworthy.
Appearing in front of the camera for nearly every major French New Wave director (including several for Godard and Rivette early on) Delehaye proved himself a capable and memorable actor although typically he would find himself in mostly smaller supporting roles.
The Nude Vampire marked the first time Delehaye worked with Jean Rollin, and it serves as a reminder that Rollin’s early cinema does indeed take place just a handful of years after the most potent explosion of the New Wave, even if stylistically it is deliberately far removed from it. Delehaye’s work for Rollin would prove most resonate and he would be cast in Jean’s next film as well, 1971’s Le Frisson des Vampires…that same year he would appear in both Borowczyk’s Blanche and Rivette’s Out 1 for good measure!

Delehaye, now nearing eighty years old, has never stopped working and, along with being a top-supporting player, he has also worked as a scriptwriter, helped out behind the camera and even received a special thanks from Godard himself in Histoire du Cinema. While not a major player in Jean Rollin’s filmography, a tribute to one of cinema’s great sidemen seemed in order.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Jean Rollin: The Collaborators (A Slight Introduction to The Castel Twins)

I am going to be writing quite a lot here in the future on the remarkable and unforgettable Castel Twins, surely two of the most resonate forces in all of Jean Rollin's cinema. As a slight introduction, here are a couple of choice quotes by Rollin on the mighty duo and their debut in La Vampire Nue (The Nude Vampire).

“They are the only twins to be found in French cinema…they were originally hairdressers. One of my assistants came to me one day and told me that he’d found a pair of twins who might interest me, so I met with them. They wanted to be actresses, a dream they had for quite some time. They had a certain naïve quality that I felt would be ideal for my type of cinema.”
-Jean Rollin to Peter Blumenstock in Video Watchdog 31 and Virgins and Vampires-

“(Great) above all (were) the two Castel twins, serious as popes, two little hairdresser thrilled to be realizing their Hollywood dream, coming of age just before the shoot.”

“I wanted them (Castel Twins) by my side everyday, until the production director Jean Lavie let me know that I was ‘vampiring’ them, sapping them of their energy and wasting them away.”

“One of the twins knocked herself out while falling down a flight of stairs…she was very proud of it and is still talking about it to this day.”
-Jean Rollin introducing Le Vampire Nue in Virgins and Vampires-

I will be delivering long individual posts on both Catherine and Marie-Pierre here in the near future.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jean Rollin Wallpapers: La Vampire Nue (Final Set)

Jean Rollin Lobby Cards: La Vampire Nue (The Nude Vampire)

Here is a poor quality scan of a rare card I found on eBay awhile back for The Nude Vampire.

Jean Rollin Home Video Designs: La Vampire Nue (The Nude Vampire)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jean Rollin Wallpapers: La Vampire Nue (Set Two)

My apologies that these wallpapers for La Vampire Nue aren't coming out as good as the Le Viol du Vampire ones did. Redemption's Region 1 disc of The Nude Vampire is really lacking visually, and the less than great print quality is showing up on these. Still, I think they are more than worth doing, so I hope they prove at least mildly enjoyable.
Thankfully our next couple of upcoming films are available in those sparkling Encore Editions, so those wallpapers promise to be much more visually enticing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jean Rollin: The Collaborators (Caroline Cartier)

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.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Outside Submissions on Jean Rollin: Jeffrey Allen Rydell's "The Transfigured Night, a Trip to the Beach"

One hope I have for Fascination is that I might get some outside submissions from other Rollin lovers that I can post here. The lovely piece below was emailed to me from Jeffrey Allen Rydell, and he has given me his kind permission to post it here. This can originally be found here at The Mobius Film Forum and the incredible photos Jeffrey took (some of which can be seen below) can be found here at his Photobucket account.
A great big thank you to Jeffrey for allowing me to use this, and I hope it will encourage more fans to email me their thoughts, memories and reviews for possible posting here.

"The Transfigured Night, a Trip to the Beach"

Night Tide

"It’s the end of November and, as the train moves toward Normandy, it grows cold.

I arrive in Dieppe by 2pm and check into the Hotel du Plage, one of many maritime-themed accommodations sprinkled throughout the small fishing village. Backpack tossed to the bed, I head for the sea.

I’m expecting to find the familiar forlorn rows of stakes, the pocked and chalky cliff-face, the churning pull of the surf I know so well, yet have never seen. After unsteadily making my way down the rocky surface of the beach, close to the water as I can get, I realize that this is all wrong. As far as I can see, in either direction, it’s too populated, too maintained, too valued. Even the fact of the castle overlooking the town, while arresting, is wrong. This isn’t the place.

This is not Jean Rollin’s beach.

I double back to the office of tourism I had passed while looking for my hotel. There, I adopt my usual outsider affect: utterly clueless. It isn’t much of a stretch, and I find it helps with the language divide. Also helps to have plenty of things to point at. Unfortunately, I only have the map of Normandy I’ve just taken off the rack on my way in. “A beach near Dieppe”, Rollin said in Immoral Tales. How hard could it be?

The French really don’t know much about this Jean Rollin guy.

The very patient and pretty tourism lady does her best to understand what I’m after, calling superiors to ask if they know what the hell a ‘Rollinade’ is. One vaguely remembers sex-horror films like this, but had no idea any of them had been shot anywhere near here. We narrow it down to a couple of beaches (none of which turn out to be the right one in the end), and I ask for an Internet cafe – I need to re-research this.

There is exactly one place in Dieppe where the beer and bandwidth flows: the Art au Bar Cybercafe. I cold-contact Mark Jason Murray, Webmaster of Virgins & Vampires: The Official Website of Jean Rollin, to plead his assistance, and also print out some screengrabs of Rollin’s beach in hopes that someone will recognize it. The man working the Internet café thinks that it looks like the beach at Quiberville, or perhaps Varengeville …

While waiting for Mark’s reply, I head out to take stock of the town, and to find some dinner. Till now, I’ve stuck to the periphery of Dieppe, bordering the harbor and the oceanside. Now that I descend into the heart of the village, I’m surprised to find a bustling shopping vicinity, which looks just a bit like the back-streets of the Latin Quarter of Paris. There are people everywhere, and though the shops are of little interest to me, they too are plentiful. The young man at the video store (which incidentally, stocks no Rollin) thinks the beach at Pourville is what is pictured in the charcoal-contrasted printouts I show him. No one I ask has heard of Jean Rollin or his films.

I leave the crowds behind and decide to sample one of the scallop-based dishes that are said to be Dieppe’s specialty. There’s certainly no lack of brasseries, so I choose one and set to tucking in.

Upon emerging from the restaurant full and satisfied, I immediately notice the change.

It’s now nearly dark, and the happy throngs of shoppers have vanished. There’s no sign that these shops were even open recently, much less healthily patronized. The only movement on the empty, unlit streets is the slow prowling of a single police cruiser, a searchlight to the side seeking out signs of unwelcome activity. It’s all of 7pm.

I make my way back to the Internet hub, suddenly unconfident that it will be open. The cruiser paces me for a block, and concluding I present no threat, turns down a dim alley and disappears. Now there is nothing moving on the street but me. It’s become quite cold. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see two blonde twins, draped in diaphanous flows of color, appear out of the gloom and drift toward me. Maybe there’s a curfew in place to ward off just such encounters…

I reach the “Art au Bar” regrettably unmolested. It’s surprisingly still open, though empty save for the attendant. I am warned upon entering they are to close at 8. Film Fanaddict Mark has emailed me back with the answer, gleaned from an interview featurette on the recent French DVD of Lips of Blood: Pourville - an even smaller town further down the coast. A follow-up search reveals that Rollin is neither the first nor the most famous admirer of this stretch of beach. Claude Monet was very fond of the cliffs here and painted them often.

I know what I must do. In the late afternoon, I will be on the beach at Pourville as night falls all around me…"

by Jeffrey Allen Rydell, 2007.

Jean Rollin Posters: La Vampire Nue (Original French Design)

Jean Rollin Trailers: La Vampire Nue (The Nude Vampire)

Here is the original English language trailer announcing Rollin's second feature, La Vampire Nue (The Nude Vampire).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Cinema of Jean Rollin: Le Viol du Vampire (The Rape of the Vampire)

While ultimately not as completely captivating or accomplished as Jean Rollin's later works, Le Viol Du Vampire (1968) can rightly claim to being one of the most daring and alive debut feature films of the sixties. It remains, forty years after its first scandalous showing, a remarkably potent and fresh work that clearly introduces Jean Rollin as one of the most maverick filmmakers of all time.

Le Viol Du Vampire is actually two films in one (with the second and longer part being entitled La Reine Des Vampires) and the clever placing of title cards to mark the individual films works as a clever tribute to the serials Jean Rollin grew up with, as well as separating it from almost anything else in French Cinema at the time.
Rollin, writing in the essential Virgins and Vampires book, recalled that “I was not quite sure that I would get a chance to make a second film” so “like most beginners I packed it with as many images and ideas as possible.” ‘Possible’ is indeed the key word there and it is the possibility of cinema itself that works its way throughout the whole of Le Viol Du Vampire. While it may contain some of the flaws inherent in many debut features, you can really feel how drunk everyone was on just the idea of making the film, and the effect is quite exhilarating.

Rollin admitted in Virgins and Vampires that he was in fact “ecstatic during the filming” but that indeed he did feel “stifled by (a) complete lack of experience.” Considering a nervous first-time feature length director made the film with basically a group of friends, Le Viol du Vampire is a remarkably confident piece that works with the refreshing notion of daring to leave some mistakes in. Indeed, a personal favorite moment in the film comes towards the end when we see a prop behind Jacqueline Sieger’s Queen fall over, and Rollin’s choosing to leave it in gives the film an almost childlike quality…refreshingly too wrapped up in the adventure of making the film itself to be bothered with an expected cinematic perfection.

Rollin fills his first film with many nods to works that influenced him, nods that would continue to separate him more and more from the French New Wave that had filled French theaters throughout the sixties. Remembering shooting the second part of the film in Virgins and Vampires, the novice director admitted that he felt more “confident” and that it was this confidence that allowed him to tip his hat to “a forgotten Italian film called Sul Ponte Dei Sospiri (1952)” during the remarkable torch lit duel scene which is quite unlike anything else seen in French cinema before or since. Rollin also mentions more obvious inspirations on Encore’s audio commentary for the film (an extraordinary talk where the director manages to make the rather freewheeling work feel more concise than anyone might have previously imagined) such as the legendary Fantomas and Judex serials. Franju’s Judex also clearly plays a role, as Rollin has stated his admiration for that iconic director as well.

Like the majority of Rollin’s greatest works, Le Viol du Vampire works best as a completely visual piece and at times it has an almost silent film quality to it. Rollin’s trademarks like the castle shots in the first section and the beach images of the second are here, but perhaps most unforgettable are the moments inside the legendary Grand Guignol Theater, as well as the deserted haunting final images shot on one of France’s most famous streets.
One gets the feeling watching Le Viol du Vampire today though that perhaps Rollin was a bit too ambitious for his first film…as though he hadn’t totally mastered the art of the low budget shoot the way he did in his later more minimal works. American producer Sam Selsky gave Rollin a very small shooting budget and at times the film feels compromised by it. Surprisingly Selsky’s biggest contribution to the production is that apparently it was his suggestion to include the film’s nude shots, which now seem so trademark Rollin that it is hard to imagine anyone else suggesting it to him.

Rollin approaches the subject of his first venture into eroticism in Encore’s booklet that accompanies their set of Le Viol u Vampire and it is worth noting. He writes, “I would like to explain the reason for that omnipresent eroticism in the two parts of the film, that I would often be reproached for. Someone even wrote that the fantasy films I was making were only pretexts, alibis, and that my true wish was to make ‘skinflicks’.” It’s been a complaint by many of Rollin’s biggest critics over the years but one glance at Ground Zero in Rollin’s feature film work will show this to be the furthest thing from the truth. While the film does contain the expected amount of nudity (that Selsky had demanded) it is the film’s wonderfully realized compositions and willingness to be distanced from everything expected that makes it work so well. This is not the work of a hack shooting nudie pics, Le Viol du Vampire signals Jean Rollin as a very serious filmmaker and it’s the beginning of one of the most accomplished auteur careers of the past fifty years.

Technically, considering the limited budget, the film is quite a wonder to behold. Photographed beautifully in black and white by Guy Leblond with some truly intriguing lighting set ups and featuring a cast of charismatic unknowns willing to go as far as Rollin asked them to, Le Viol du Vampire is a compulsively watchable film that fits in perfectly well with his more talked about later works.
Troubled by censorship issues, critical dismissals and a rather baffled public, Rollin’s first film would essentially disappear for many years after those initial showings that were posted on here previously. Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs would write in their Immoral Tales that the critical reaction to Le Viol du Vampire would “set a standard against which his future work (would be) judged” and that “people were either violently for or against him. There was no middle ground; he was either a charlatan or a genius.” Forty years after Le Viol du Vampire’s scandalous premiere, that middle ground has still yet to appear.

Le Viol du Vampire would act as Jean Rollin’s uncompromising introduction to an unsuspecting film world. It would introduce many of his often-repeated visual motives, his iconic and unforgettable way of using eroticism and would change the genre of Vampire Films forever. Talking to Peter Blumenstock on these creatures of the night (or in Rollin’s world, the day as well) that would haunt so many of his films, he had this to say, “A Vampire is like an animal, a predator-wild, emotional, naïve, primitive, sensual, not too concerned with logic, driven by emotions, but also very aesthetic and beautiful, and these are terms also often used when my films are being described.” Rollin, outside of being a wonderful filmmaker, is also someone who clearly understands his art and it is a wonderful thing to have quotes like these to savor when thinking about his work.

Le Viol du Vampire is available on a few different DVDS. The most readily available for Region 1 audiences is Redemption's disc, under the title The Rape of The Vampire. It is a bare bones release that offers an uncut print of the film in French with English subtitles with so-so print quality. The best version is undoubtedly Encore’s remarkable double-disc set which offers up a crisp print with a wealth of extras including the 32 page booklet, hundreds of stills, the audio commentary, interviews with Sieger, actor Alain-Yves Beaujour, composer Francois Tusques and a couple of deleted sequences that were victims of the censorship that plagued the film. It is, quite simply put, a stunning set for an important film.

For a director who seemed born to make color features, the striking black and white
Le Viol du Vampire feels like the perfect first feature for Jean Rollin. Poetic, mildly pretentious, daring, erotic and finally very haunting, Le Viol du Vampire is one of the most important (if under seen) works of the late sixties. It’s a startling and combative call to arms for people willing to follow an artist who has always stood very much alone.