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.


Steve Langton said...

I have the UK release on my rental list. I can always let you know about the interview soon as I get to rent it.

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Thanks Steve,
Give me a report on that interview if you can...I'd love to hear what he has to say.

Keith said...

She's breathtaking. It was nice to learn more about her. It's a shame that we often don't know that much about these actresses we only see once or twice in a film. She's definitely a beautiful woman that draws your attention to the screen.

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Thanks Keith,
I think it's a shame too which is why I am having these posts...even if all I can get is a basic filmography it will at least lead to some attention. I appreciate the comments.

Marivaudage said...

We can also mention that the exquisite Caroline Cartier starred in Jacques Rozier's masterpiece Du Côté d'Orouët (Near Orouët). This movie, shot in 69 (and released in 73), is really worth seeing and has recently been edited on DVD (only available in France I'm afraid). Unseen for 35 years, this movie has gained some kind of cult status. You'll find pictures of her in this movie on my blog.

Caroline also has a medium role in a later Rozier film : Les Naufragés de l'île de la Tortue (The Castaways of Turtle Island), another hard-to-find excellent movie, released in 1976 an re-edited in the same DVD collection. For your information, she spends 90% of the movie hanging around in a tiny swimsuit and she's more adorable than ever in this movie.

By the way, let me congratulate you for your blog. I'm also a big fan of Jean Rollin (I've just finished reading his Memoires) even though I've seen far less movies from him than you. I really like the way you talk about the movies and how dig deep into them and the collaborators. It's always a great pleasure to read your articles and watch the pictures. Keep the articles comming !

stuart5150 said...

How did she die?

Disabused said...

She commited suicide. I happened to meet her in a French restaurant, La Closerie des Lilas, a plot haunted by journalists and artists. I spoke a bit with her, and she appeared to me as a lost lady. Not a loner, for she had a companion by the time of her death, but mostly unbalanced and disappointed. A sad woman, though she smiled a lot, I guess she never reached the kind of life she coveted and was highly depressed.

srbh41413 said...

Disabused - can you tell me how you know she committed suicide? Was there press on it you could link to?
Thank you.

srbh41413 said...

Disabused - May I ask how you know she committed suicide? Was there some press on it in France that you could link to?

Unknown said...

In response to srbh41413.

Regarding Caroline Cartier untimely death, I found very little information on the net, nothing in the press mentioning her suicide. This is after all, a very sensitive matter.

The only source that I can point to you is my DVD of "Les Petits câlins" (The Little Wheedlers) (Dir. Jean-Marie Poiré - 1978) in which Caroline co-starred with Dominique Laffin and Josiane Balasko. It includes a making of/documentary titled "Les Femmes contre attaquent" (Women strike back).

Around the 31 min. mark, director Jean-Marie Poiré - who remembers her fondly - puts it very bluntly (my translation):
“Caroline was adorable. She committed suicide, unfortunately. She was not very happy… She was a charming girl, quick to blush, almost prudish.”
One minute later, Josiane Balasko concurs : “[Of us three] Caroline was the most bashful. Dominique and I were ill-mannered. Caroline was definitely well educated.”

srbh41413 said...

Didier, thank you very much for passing along this additional information. It is helpful and comforting.

Interesting that the French press would shy away from delving into such situation, where the U.S. media would try to exploit it as much as possible.

Many thanks.

mckavitt said...

Caroline Cartier also gave a fine performance in the Jean Richard MAIGRET series, episode entitled "Maigret et l'Indicateur". I was shocked to read here of her early death & its cause. A tragedy, surely.