Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jean Rollin: The Collaborators (Françoise Blanchard)

Intelligent, charming and very talented French actress Françoise Blanchard has brought something special to every role she has played in a film career that stretched from the late seventies up until the early nineties. Probably best known for her work as the title character in Jean Rollin's savagely haunting The Living Dead Girl (1982), Françoise graced a number of notable films from the period including works by directors Jess Franco and Bruno Mattei.
Recalling her career on Encore's terrific interview on the DVD set for The Living Dead Girl, Françoise mentioned that it was a tragedy and a coincidence that set her career in motion in the late seventies. While trying to make ends meet as a hand model, Françoise lost her beloved brother in the late seventies. Around that time she was offered her first role, coincidentally as someone who had also lost a family member. Françoise approached the part sceptically as she remembered that at the the time she was, "aggressive against people but also a bit confused" due to the death of her brother. She enjoyed the experience though and soon threw herself seriously into acting lessons afterwards.
Her career quickly become intertwined with the legendary Eurocine company and soon she was involved in several B movies from the period. "I liked the feel of these B-Movies, especially Horror" noted Françoise to Encore, which perhaps explains one reason she became so popular to several of the most noteworthy genre directors of the late seventies. She also mentioned she didn't mind nudity and even went so far as to pose for Lui magazine in the early eighties.
After several films, for the likes of directors like Pierre Chevalier, Françoise hit exploitation paydirt with her rather unforgettable role in Bruno Mattei's sleazy but entertaining Caligula and Messalina in 1981. The following year she would appear in Jess Franco's confused but interesting Revenge in the House of Usher, and she liked Franco and admired his creativity and fire.
After another sleaze epic with Matei, Françoise shot the rather wonderful Living Dead Girl with Rollin. Françoise is extremely good in the film and delivers one of the most powerful performances in Rollin's canon. The mostly night shoot was difficult and there were many problems with the special effects but, despite some disagreements, she liked and admired Rollin and admitted to Encore that, "he is really nice and is very much there." Françoise also enjoyed working with and admired her co-star in the film, Italian actress Marina Pierro, and noted, "She was very maternal with me."

Françoise would work again with Rollin on The Sidewalks of Bangkok, a film which she had a lot of fun making, and recently she appeared in his newest production La Nuit des Horloges opposite Ovidie. Still a lovely lady, Françoise Blanchard's contributions to Jean Rollin's filmography should not be undervalued.

-Jeremy Richey, 2009-