Sunday, October 14, 2012

Two Very Rare Jean Rollin Fanzines Are on eBay

 I just wanted to give everyone a heads up that two rare issues of the French Fanzine Monster Bis dedicated to Jean Rollin have just been listed over at eBay. I don't have the money right now to bid but I wanted to share the link for any readers here that might.
The auctions can be viewed here and here and each listing has several scans from the issues (I am including a few favorites here). If any reader happens to snag these more scans would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Jean Rollin Top-Ten List by Jérôme Peyrel

I am very pleased this morning to present another Jean Rollin Top-Ten list from a reader here at Fascination.  This one comes from French writer Jérôme Peyrel.  Thanks very much to Jérôme for putting this together and for offering an English translation for my readers here.
1) the perseverance.
I love that Jean Rollin followed through his career, his films, his books ; the figures he created, the mixture he worked on, the way he told, over and over, the same story.
2) that poetic shot, in Lèvres de Sang, in which Frédéric can't catch the woman he dreams of since his childhood, in the cemetary... The light tears them apart, even if they are so close...
3) the Encore collection. Remarquable edition for these movies.
4) the Castel twins, that haunt my dreams, as they haunt La Vampire Nue.
5) His poetry of pause : the cinema of Jean Rollin is made of still pictures, beautiful, intriguing, they carries the essence of his conception of horror, surrealistic and free.
6) the 30 minutes of Le Viol du Vampire, and the camera that goes round and round the characters ad mauseam. I deeply love the duel.
7) The Philippe Druillet posters, in particular the one for La Vampire Nue.
8) The book Les Demoiselles de l'Etrange, that made me discover Erik Satie... (there's a lot of artists I discovered through Jean Rollin, notably Clovis Trouille).
9) La Rose de Fer, the Limoges screening in the late 90s. The film didn't arrived, so they decided to run the VHS ! Anyway, everybody was happy, and that day, we briefly talked about the movie with Jean Rollin. I looked forward to read the short story La Nuit du Cimetière (that can be found in the revue L'impossible number 11), during years since that day.
10) His critic works for french anarchists magazines in the 60's. One of his hidden sides.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Fascination Q&A with Filmmaker Damien Dupont

Tonight here at Fascination I am very excited to present this Q&A I recently conducted with filmmaker Damien Dupont, one of the directors (along with Yvan Pierre-Kaiser) of the upcoming documentary Jean Rollin,le rêveur égaré (Jean Rollin, The Stray Dreamer).  I am thrilled that Damien agreed to participate in this, as I know we are all excited about his upcoming film, and I can't thank him enough.  Enjoy the interview and support his upcoming work on Jean Rollin. 

Jeremy Richey:  Hi Damien. Thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to participate in this interview. I really appreciate it and know my readers here will love it. To start off, can you tell us a bit about your background and where you are from?

Damien Dupont:  Hi Jeremy. It is a pleasure to answer your questions. So, I was a student at Paris VIII University, I studied Cinema. I met Thomas and Yvan at that time. We had the same plan: to become movie directors and producers. My first movies were made with University: an experimental movie on a doppleganger and I made a movie with Yvan: a short film about the critics who don’t like Horror Movies, Sci-fi Movies, etc. That movie contained false extract movies, made by ourselves too. We were inspired by Videodrome, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari and David Lynch’s movies. It was a kind of comedy.

How did you initially get interested in film and who were some of your early influences?

My parents used to take me to the cinema every week. They often talked about movies like Fog by John Carpenter or The Fly by David Cronenberg. My early influences were Naked Lunch by David Cronenberg, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, Fire Walk with Me by David Lynch. These movies were like a revelation. They opened my mind. They were so different from other movies I was seeing.

How did you first discover the cinema of Jean Rollin?

My first discovery was Le viol du vampire (The rape of the Vampire). This film was made in 1968 and is still completely crazy, it’s always a strange experience. To tell the truth, the first time, I didn’t like this movie. It was too strange, too “dadaist”. Now, I love it. It’s fun and crazy, maybe one of the strangest movies of the story of the cinema.

Tell us about Jean Rollin, le rêveur égaré and how the project came about?

One day, Yvan phoned me: “I’ve got the phone number of Jean Rollin. Do you want to meet him ?” Me: “Of course !”. Yvan called him. The next week, we met Jean Rollin. He was a kind old man living in Paris. We talked with him for several hours. He told us about his incredible life and career. His mother was a friend of Jacques Prévert and Jean Cocteau’s. His lost movie, L’itinéraire marin, was written by Marguerite Duras. In 1968, his first film’s audience (The Rape of the Vampire) wanted to lynch him as they hated this movie! During the seventies, Jean Rollin began to make porn movies, etc. Meeting him was a great moment. In the end, Yvan and I had the same idea: make a documentary on Jean Rollin. In the beginning, we wanted to make a short film of 26 minutes. After 2 years, it was 52 minutes. After 5 years, it was 78 minutes.

You got to interview a number of Rollin’s most notable collaborators and Rollin himself. Can you tell us who we will see in the film and was there anyone you were particularly excited to meet and talk to?

The shooting of the movie lasted five years. So we interviewed Jean Rollin several times over that period. His death stopped the meetings, it was very sad… In the end, he was very sick.

In the movie, you will see Jean-Loup Phillipe (friend and actor of Jean Rollin), Natalie Perrey (his collaborator from the beginning, she was an actress, an editor, a script-writer, a production manager etc. ; unfortunately, she died in 2012), Jean-Pierre Bouyxou (a movie critic and Jean Rollin’s friend), Pete Tombs (Mondo Macabro’s editor, Immoral Tales’ writer), Pascal Françaix (who wrote “Jean Rollin cinéaste-écrivain”), Brigitte Lahaie, Ovidie, Caroline Vié (a movie critic) and Philippe Druillet (the great French comics artist ; he worked on the set of The Rape of the Vampire and drew the movie posters of The Rape of the Vampire, The Nude Vampire and The Shiver of the Vampires).

I was very excited to meet Philippe Druillet and talk with him. And that was a great time and the last interview for the documentary… We drank lots of wine, he is a cool guy and a genius. He made all the furniture in his workshop himself… It felt like being in one of his comics, a very strange feeling! A really great moment and an excellent interview.


Your film has played a several festivals already. How has the reception been and will there eventually be DVD release?

The reception by the audience, the friends and the family of Jean Rollin was excellent. We didn’t expect it after 5 years of work. It was very moving.

The movie should be released in France in 2013 and maybe in North America in the same year and the DVD will have many features, hopefully.

What are your personal favorite films by Jean Rollin?

Iron Rose and Requiem for a Vampire are the most beautiful Jean Rollin’s movies. The quintessence of his unique talent.

With the recent Kino/Redemption Blu-rays and Finders Keepers soundtrack releases Jean Rollin has been getting more mainstream attention, to English language audiences, than ever before. Your film will certainly help strengthen his legacy even more. What is it about the works of Jean Rollin that remains so captivating?

It’s very hard to answer. I don’t really know. These movies are hypnotic dreams with beautiful naked women. They are unique erotic macabre movies. A beautiful wedding between sex and death.
Thanks so much Damien for taking the time to participate in this Q&A!  I know I speak for all Jean Rollin fans when I say thank you and Yvan for making this film...we are all extremely excited to see it and we wish you both all the success in the world.  Thanks again!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Jean Rollin Top-Ten by Robert Savage

Here's another entry in my newest giveaway here at Fascination.  Thanks so much to Robert Savage for compiling his personal Rollin list and I hope he enjoys the poster!  I still have one more prize left so start compiling your own Jean Rollin top-ten and email it my way. 

1. Shiver Of The Vampires because a strange naked lady comes out of a grandfather clock.

2. The Iron Rose because it's really unlike any other film ever made. It's not even like any other Rollin film ever made. Clown in cemetery. Slow moving. Makes me feel like I'm having one of those foggy dream like hangovers.

3. Immoral Tales book. Great book on Euro Horror in general with a nice big section dedicated to Rollin. My introduction.

4. Saga De Xam graphic novel. Incredibly cool large hardcover comic written by Rollin and illustrated beautifully by someone called Nicolas Devil. I don't understand a word of French but I can stare at this book for hours. I wish somebody would translate this into English. Very rare and one of my prized possessions. Did Nicolas Devil ever do anything else?

5. Living Dead Girl because it's a great bloody mess and a great bloody story.

6. Virgins and Vampires book. Nice companion to Rollin's films. It's not a huge book but it is a great go to guide if you want to read up on any of the films. Plus it has some good photos.

7. Finders Keepers soundtrack albums. I'm so glad that someone is releasing all of this great music and doing it so well. Great liner notes and sound quality.

8. Water. Rollin liked to shoot by the water and I like to be by the water.

9. Kino blu ray releases. I like the old bootleg quality stuff too because there's a certain charm in watching some bad quality vhs and thinking you're hip to something the rest of the world is unaware of, but it's really great to see these in a new and more clear light. But I'm hanging on to my old bootlegs.

10. Lesbian Vampires because they're lesbians and they're vampires.

Thanks again Robert!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Jean Rollin Top-Ten List by Daniel Orion Davis

A great big congratulations to Spellbound Cinema's Daniel Orion Davis for being the second entry in my Jean Rollin Personal Top-Ten giveaway!  Daniel really knocked it out of the park with his list and I know all fellow Rollin fans will find this detailed post a wonderful example as to just how much Rollin means to his most dedicated fans.  Thanks so much to Daniel for this wonderful piece and I hope you enjoy your prize.  Keep those lists coming!

1) The Bond of Sisters

With the exception of the beach at Dieppe (see entry #2), there is no
image more frequently returned to than that of a pair of young girls.
Obviously, the Castel Twins are the most memorable embodiment of this
archetype in Rollin's work, but the characters reappear far more
frequently than he was able to with with Marie-Pierre and Catherine.
Lost in New York, Fascination, Living Dead Girl, The Demoniacs and (of
course) Two Orphan Vampires all feature this dynamic without the
participation of a Castel. Whether the girls experience together an
adventure or a shared tragedy, it is clear that Rollin believes they
are empowered by their relationship to each other. Arguably the most
moving tragedy in Rollin's oeuvre results from the separation of such
a pair; both the narrative and the emotional resonance of Living Dead
revolve around the disruption of a childhood bond and the girls
are never truly Lost in New York until they are separated from each

2) The Romance of Travel

No Rollin fan can doubt that a boyhood trip to Dieppe had a profound
effect on young Jean's thinking. Here at once was a new stage on
which his fantasies would be set for the rest of his life. Not only
did this create a life-long love affair with the beach at Dieppe, but
it seemed to impress upon Rollin the belief that travel was an
inherently romantic pursuit, filled with opportunities for adventure
and transformation. From one of his earliest shorts, Les Pays Loin,
in which the peculiarities of unfamiliar language and geography seem
to cause the protagonists to doubt their own identity and history, to
later films like Lost in New York and Sidewalks of Bangkok (in which
Rollin's romantic visions of these foreign cities define the
narrative) travel, in the Rollinade, is an opportunity for an
experience that is simultaneously more authentic and more fantastic.

3) The Importance of Memory

One of the most tragic things you can experience in a Rollin narrative
is the loss of your memory -- whether that be the memory of your
personal history or your connection to a shared cultural history.
Without memory, we are automatons, mere consumers. Memory allows us
to attribute meaning, make connections and bond with others. In Night
of the Hunted
, even a fabricated memory can have the power to restore
some value to an otherwise meaningless existence, while in The Living
Dead Girl
memories restore the humanity to the title character who is
otherwise just a void, a gnawing hunger.

4) The Seductive Power of Death

For many, death and its iconography are something to be shunned, as
though we can apply the childhood logic that if we don't see it, it
won't see us. But Rollin sees through such delusion and recognizes a
primal beauty to the ways in which we have visualized and portrayed
our own mortality. This is why his films are so frequently labeled as
horror films, despite having none of the narrative trademarks of the
genre -- visions of decay and morbidity haunt his films from first to
last. The Iron Rose, perhaps his greatest achievement, makes explicit
this dynamic as it considers two very different reactions to being
trapped in a cemetery, the literal land of the dead. Both parties end
up facing the same fate, but only "the girl," who has seen the beauty
in death, is transformed by it and thus transcends it.

5) The Passing of the Old World

Of all the filmmakers you could compare Rollin to, perhaps Jacques
Tati is an unusual choice. But it has always seemed to me that they
share a particular obsession: a deep sadness at the passing of the old
world and its replacement with a sterile modernity. Consider Playtime
and Night of the Hunted as strange companion pieces. Both are defined
by their being set among the glass and steel of modern office
buildings. Both seem to believe that such an environment can only
dehumanize its inhabitants. But between the two directors, Rollin was
far less optimistic. Whereas Tati seemed to ultimately suggest that
human nature would eventually assert itself against modernity and
carve new, more organic spaces for itself, anyone who has seen the
denouement of Night of the Hunted knows that Rollin believed that
something precious was being lost, perhaps irrevocably. Like the
scientific cult in The Nude Vampire, our age's attempts to measure,
rationalize and control our world must inevitably lead to our (or its)

6) The Inadequacy of Language

Rollin's characters, especially in his later films, love to talk.
They circle around their subjects with a piling up of poetry, an
accumulation of words. Yet perversely, for all the beauty in the
language, Rollin seems intensely skeptical of our ability to actually
communicate with each other, to use language as a vehicle for sharing
our experiences. Perhaps its language's connection to rationality,
but speech frequently seems inadequate for its purpose in the cinema
of Rollin. Characters struggle against language as an implacable
barrier as they try to make each other understand the ineffable. His
filmography is nearly bookended with meditations on the subject. In
Les Pays Loin the protagonists wander in a labyrinth created by a
language barrier. In The Night of the Clocks, everyone has something
to say to Ovide, but their words seem only to draw her further and
further away from an understanding of her cousin (an understanding
that only images, icons, and experiences can really provide.)

7) The Redemptive Power of Fantasy

Just as we are made less human when we can no longer remember, we can
transcend our limitations when we are able to indulge our fantasies to
their fullest. Rollin spent his career chasing the fantasy figures
that made such an impression on his youth, a pursuit that enriched not
only his life, but the lives of all those who loved his films. His
characters, in turn, joined in on this pursuit whether by adopting
costumes (The Nude Vampire, Requiem for a Vampire), engaging in
performance (Shiver of the Vampire, Mask of Medusa) or simply -- and
perhaps most perfectly -- by telling each other stories (Lost in New

8) The Strength of Femininity

The heroic figures in Rollin's cinema are women. Even when the
protagonists are male, they are defined by their relationships to
women. Frédéric, in Lips of Blood, may be the single most appealing
and sympathetic male character in all of Rollin's filmography, but his
story is the story of a woman. His life is defined by his encounter
with a woman more captivating and powerful than he could ever hope to
be. Of course, the best illustration of the gender dynamics in
Rollin's work is in Fascination. There Marc, the robber who betrayed
his friends, clings to the symbols of male strength: his gun, his
will, his sexual dominance. Yet from the moment he encounters
Elisabeth and Eva he is at their mercy, whether he realizes it or not.

9) The Priority of Eroticism over Sex

One of the most common things you will read about Jean Rollin is also,
I believe, one of the most wrong. I don't know how many times I've
read critics, professional and amateur, asserting that Rollin was
obsessed with sex (usually given as somehow being proof of his
inadequacies as a director). This has always seemed to me to be the
most facile of observations. Yes, his films are replete with nudity
and with sex. But there are two considerations here. First, anyone
serious about understanding Rollin's work needs to take into account
the demands of the production environment in which Rollin worked.
Rollin frequently had to promise a certain amount of sex to get
funding for his films, and often (as in the case of Night of the
) faced a continual struggle to retain his vision against
producers who would be more satisfied with a simple porn loop. No,
the sex scenes in Rollin's work are frequently perfunctory and rarely
possess the magic of his best moments. Second, is narrative context.
Rather than the sex act, I think it is eroticism that fascinated him
-- the aesthetics of desire. Just as the vampires that run rampant
through his films are defined by their hunger, sex in a Rollin film is
best when it's a desire unfulfilled. Many of the most striking images
in his filmography are deeply erotic but removed from an explicitly
sexual context: the iconic image of Brigitte Lahaie barely robed as
she wields a scythe in Fascination, Sandra Julien emerging from the
clock in Shiver of the Vampires, Françoise Pascal transformed by her
experience on the beach at Dieppe in The Iron Rose. In all three
cases conventional sexual dynamics and relationships are an obstacle
that has to be overcome before the true eroticism emerges.

10) The Value of Collaboration

For all that this list has focused on the man himself as the driving
force behind his films, the final theme I want to highlight is the
beauty and power that comes from collaboration with like-minded
friends. Rollin had an eye for beauty and a powerful imagination, but
his films would not have been the impressive body of work without the
host of tremendous talents he surrounded himself: the Castel twins,
Brigitte Lahaie, Philippe d'Aram, Jean-Jacques Renon, Willy Braque,
Natalie Perrey -- these are just some of the many frequent
collaborators who brought out the best in Rollin and did their best
work at his direction. In the 1980's financial problems drove Rollin
to prose rather than cinema as the outlet for his creative energies.
Undoubtedly the lack of constraints freed his imagination in a way
that it never had been before. Yet despite his success in this
endeavor he returned to film, even facing new limitations he continued
to make films right up to his final years. Why? Surely part of the
reason was the pleasure of working with others, seeing his imagination
reflected and transformed by the ideas of his companions. Why else
make a film like Night of the Clocks which, in addition to being a
meditation on his own mortality, was a joyful tribute to all the
people he'd worked with and the ways in which they continued to haunt
his imagination -- and ours.

Thanks again Daniel!

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Jean Rollin Top-Ten List by Sascha Kämpf

We have our first winner in the Jean Rollin Personal Top-Ten Challenge!  This is exactly the kind of personal post with notes that I was hoping to receive and I really appreciate the contribution.  Congratulations to Sascha Kämpf and keep those entries coming as there are still three prizes remaining.

1) Grapes of Death
This must be my Top 1 because it was my first ever Rollin Film and made me a massive Fan of Jean Rollin.
And the image of Brigitte Lahaie in the nude has burned itself into my Iris forever ^^.
This brings me to my No. 2)

2) Brigitte Lahaie
Without Rollin Lahaie - I guess - would never have made it to "Mainstream" and here Presence has massively
attributed to Movies like Grapes of Death, Fascination or Franco's Faceless

3) Moteur coupez
This is my Top3 because I ordered this book from a small Store in Paris from a Guy who spoke enough english (since I
do not speak french) and I wanted this Limited Edition because it came with an autograph of JR an the Night of the Clocks DVD

4) Ecrits complets : Volume 1
I ordered this book from the same Bookstore in Paris - again Limited to 150 Copies with the DVD of Le masque de la Méduse.
Since - according to my knowledge - this movie has not yet been officially released on DVD I am one of the very few people who
has the DVD of it.

5) Lips of Blood
Because this movie touched me in a way that only a few movies ever did. It is utterly beautiful and stunning. I will never forget the
day I found the Encore-Box-Set. I was so happy I almost cried. Lips of Blood is and will always be my favourite Rollin Movie.

6) Fascination
Because this Movie is Eye Candy, visually absolutely stunning. The Setting is incredible. Lahaie unbelievable and the Score of Philippe d' Aram is the best
score of all of Rollin's Movies.

7) Philippe d' Aram
His Music fits absolutely perfect into Rollin's Movies & World. It's unique und "Cinema for the Ears"-

8) The Films of Jean Rollin
Because I wanted this CD forever and was looking for it for years until I finally managed to buy a it new at a reasonable price on Ebay.
What can I say? It's limited, out of print, the music is wonderful and I am happy I finally found the CD.

9) The Shiver of the Vampires
Because of it's Psychedlic Look and the strange but somehow fitting Music, the setting, Dominique and the two Vampires + one of the Castel-Twins.
What else do you need to but it on a Top10 List :)

10) Jean Rollin:  Virgins and Vampires
Because this Book (+CD) was hard to find. It has a lot of interesting Articles and I leaf through it quite often. Since I love Rollin it's hard to find
some rare Stuff like this Book. And since I was happy when it finally found it's way to my Letterbox it has well deserved to be on my Top10 list.

Thanks again Sascha!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Another Fascination Giveaway: The Personal Top-Ten Challenge

Greetings all. I have a few more Jean Rollin related goodies that I am looking to giveaway to four lucky winners. I thought instead of doing another trivia related challenge I would try and think a bit more outside the box. So, what I am looking for are some Jean Rollin Top-Ten lists that I can share here at Fascination.

The rules for the challenge are simple. Come up with a Rollin related list (with notes please).  If you are one of the first four folks who email me ( a list I will send you a free prize! You can also get some free publicity for your own blog or site if you have one as I will, of course, be supplying a link back to your site with your list. Be creative with your list as you like (favorite films, greatest characters, best performances, coolest soundtracks etc). Just make sure it is Rollin related and that it has some brief notes (or an introduction will suffice). Readers who send
just a list won't be eligible for the prizes (although I will still post them and link back to you).

Okay, hopefully the rules are clear and now here are the prizes!

The reader who gets their list submitted first will get a sealed copy of the new Kino Redemption Living Dead Girl Blu-ray!

The person who gets me that second entry will get a sealed vinyl copy of the Finders Keepers Requiem for a Vampire soundtrack!

The next two folks will get a limited edition poster advertising the recent Triskel ChristChurch Jean Rollin film fest!

Any lists that come after the first four will still be shared here although only the first four will receive prizes. Okay, I hope these rules are clear so get to compiling and writing and I will get the packages ready to ship! All the best of luck and I can't wait to see, and post, your lists!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Look at the Newest Titles in The Cinema of Jean Rollin Collection

Late last month Kino Lorber (along with Redemption) released two more titles on DVD and Blu-ray in their exciting Jean Rollin Collection.  Featuring a real fan favorite and one of Rollin's most underrated films, these recent additions are both essential releases and serve as a reminder that our man's catalogue is in the absolute best hands.

  First up is Jean Rollin's 1982 film The Living Dead Girl (La Morte Vivante), a work that stands as one of the late filmmakers most treasured and adored films. The Kino-Redemption Blu-ray is a lovely thing to behold and it offers up a spectacular transfer for one of Rollin's most disturbing features. While The Living Dead Girl looked quite splendid on the great import Encore Box-Set from several years back this new transfer, mastered in HD from the 35mm negative, stands as the definitive presentation of the film and it is hard to imagine it looking much better, considering its budget and age. The color photography by Max Monteillet looks incredibly vibrant (the bloody finale now seems even more devastating than ever before) and the unforgettable score by Philippe D'Aram has never sounded quite as creepy and haunting. Kino, Redemption and Producer Bret Wood have done an absolutely extraordinary job with The Living Dead Girl and those that consider it one of Jean Rollin's great masterpieces will be thrilled with the disc.
-Image courtesy of Collections La Cinémathèque de Toulouse-

While it doesn't carry over the wonderful extras that the Encore Box offered, the new disc of The Living Dead Girl has some wonderful supplemental material that should entice any fans on the fence about upgrading again. These extras include another set of excellent liner notes from Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas, trailers for a number of Rollin films, an older video interview with Rollin by Joshua T. Gravel, a terrific near forty minute video documenting Rollin's time at the Fantasia Fest in 2007, a short introduction by Rollin and, best of all, four amazing featurettes by filmmaker and former Rollin Assistant Daniel Gouyette (made up of chats with Jean-Pierre Bouyxou and D'Aram, a look at the alternate 'American' version and a moving tribute to the late uber-talented special effects artist Benoit Lestang). Gouyette's great documentary work puts Rollin's film in perspective and offers up a number of tantalizing bits of information that haven't widely been heard before.
Longtime readers here might recall in my original review of The Living Dead Girl that I don't rank it as high as many fellow fans do. While I find the majority of the film absolutely mesmerizing (and the performances by Francoise Blanchard and Marina Pierro to be among the finest in Rollin's canon) I still feel like the film is truly damaged by the, forced on Rollin, scenes of the two American tourists. That said, this new Blu-ray of The Living Dead Girl had me admiring the film's great moments more than ever and I don't think I have ever been as shook up by the pulverising ending as I was on this viewing.

  While I am sure that most fellow Jean Rollin fans will name The Living Dead Girl as the most essential recent release in their collection to my eyes it is the undervalued Two Orphan Vampires that is the real triumph here. Previously only available on two dreadfully blurry, dark and murky discs, Kino's new Blu-ray of Two Orphan Vampires finally grants Rollin's 'comeback' film a worthwhile presentation. While some print damage is apparent throughout, Two Orphan Vampires finally looks the way we always knew it should and, to use a cliche, I really did feel like I was experiencing the film for the very first time on this splendid new release, which was mastered in HD from the original 16mm negative.
As if finally having a great looking version of Two Orphan Vampires wasn't enough, Kino went far and beyond what was expected in the extras department as well. In fact, I would say that the supplemental material gathered here is among the best for this new Jean Rollin Collection so far and, again, Bret Wood and Daniel Gouyette deserve a real sign of gratification for all their amazing work. Along with Lucas' notes, the trailers and a 2008 interview with Rollin by Rebecca Johnson (previously seen on an older Redemption release) we are treated with an amazing 40 minute documentary from Gouyette entitled Memories of a Blue World, the Making of Les Deux Orphelines Vampires. Featuring interviews with a number of folks who worked in front of and behind the camera on Two Orphan Vampires, Memories of a Blue World is as informative as it is moving and it stands as one of the best documentaries ever presented on Jean Rollin's work...bravo to Daniel Gouyette!
I noted what I saw as the great, and not so great, aspects of the brave but flawed Two Orphan Vampires in my original write-up on it but I found more to admire on this viewing than ever before. It has all the trademarks of the classic Jean Rollin film as well as offering up proof that age and illness couldn't stop his unstoppable creative vision and drive. I am quite fond of this striking minor work and Kino's Blu-ray is one of the great archival releases of the year. The Living Dead Girl and Two Orphan Vampires are both available to order from Kino, Amazon and most other retailers. No definitive word yet on what the next titles in The Jean Rollin Collection will be but I know many of us are hoping for both The Grapes of Death and Night of the Hunted to be within our grasp soon!
-Image courtesy of Collections La Cinémathèque de Toulouse-

Monday, August 27, 2012

The New Rollin Discs Are Out this Week

This week sees the release of the two new Jean Rollin releases from Kino/Redemption on Blu-ray and DVD. They are fan favorite The Living Dead Girl and the undervalued Two Orphan Vampires. Both discs contain numerous extras (including interviews and documentaries) and are available for order over at Amazon.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Jean Rollin Film Festival at Triskel Christchurch!

***The article I have written mentioned below is now posted at this link for those interested.***

Here's the just released specially-commissioned poster (from artist Mark Kenny), advertising the upcoming Jean Rollin Film Festival at Cork City, Ireland's Triskel Christchurch, and isn't it an absolute beauty? This very special festival takes place the weekend of July 6th and more information can be read about it here. The lucky folks who get to attend will get to see screenings (courtesy of Redemption and Nigel Wingrove) of several of Rollin's greatest films including The Rape of the Vampire, The Nude Vampire, The Shiver of the Vampires, Demoniacs and Fascination! As if seeing those amazing works of art in an old church setting, with a cemetery just outside, wasn't enough the extraordinary Andy Votel will be on hand as well introducing Fascination and providing a DJ set! While I won't be able to attend, I'm very excited for this two-day long event as my good friend, filmmaker Chris O'Neil, helped bring this to life, along with Twisted Celluloid, Plugd Records, The Avant, Redemption Films and Finders Keepers Records. Even though distance doesn't allow me to attend, Chris has graciously allowed me to submit a new essay on Rollin which will appear at their web site sometime next week. I hope everyone in the area will attend and, even if you can't, please visit the above links and let the Triskel Arts Centre know how much we appreciate them celebrating our guy in such a super and stylish way!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lilies & Remains: My Tribute to Jean Rollin (A Guest-Post by Heather Drain)

***Simply put, Heather Drain is one of my favorite writers on the planet so I am quite blown away this morning to present this amazing piece she has written in tribute to our man Jean Rollin. Heather's always intelligent and eloquent writing has appeared in the pages of Video Watchdog, Screem, Ultra Violent and many other publications. She also has her own fascinating blog, Mondo Heather, and posts regularly at Cinema Head Cheese as well. I can't thank Heather enough for submitting this haunting and lovely piece on Jean Rollin and I am honored to present it here. Enjoy and comments are most certainly appreciated.***

Few suffer in this world like the misunderstood. Poets, monsters, dreamers, madmen and artists alike have to battle the often inherent ignorance of human nature. A filmmaker like Jean Rollin, for example, was a man and an artist who dealt with the slings and arrows of an often unappreciative world. He was most certainly a poet, for so many of his films possessed a melancholy and heartfelt poetry to them. (With “Lips of Blood” and “Living Dead Girl” sticking out to me the most, but they are far from the only ones.) Rollin was a not a madman, but he was a dreamer, though the twain have been known to meet and he painted his visions with monsters, most famously, vampires.

Part of the appeal of a filmmaker like Jean Rollin was that his approach was never simple. Traditional horror can be a genre fueled by very basic morals. Black and white, good versus evil, the whole nine yards. Horror, dating back hundreds of years, has been a device to both give us a shiver of adrenaline but also a safety method of coping with the inevitable darkness of this world. With Rollin, the darkness was a different type of shadow. There are rarely clear cut villains or villainesses, for even the monsters have hearts and souls, caged by their own curse. Unlike so many monsters, Rollin's are usually beautiful, in spite of the air of death that clamors all around them.

On top of all that, Rollin utilized imagery that we usually associate with “classic horror cinema.” Items such as bats and castles perennially pop up, but are weaved seamlessly into the dream world of mist, ghosts, gauze and decadent-gorgeous-sad-eyed undead. In essence, he did what any wholly brilliant filmmaker does, which is putting his thumbprint on his art. No matter that there have been umpteen horror movies with blood drinking beauties, because Rollin's films look and feel like nothing else. Forty plus years and the freshness of his vision has not even a speck of dust on it.

The thing that haunts me the most about Jean Rollin, other than how ethereal, sad and full of beauty his films are, is how gypped he really was. It's an age-old quagmire. How many painters and writers lived lives full of pain, poverty and semi-obscurity while creating on this plane, only to be championed after their bodies have long merged with the Earth? Too many. Van Gogh wasn't the exception, he was the norm. Filmmakers are no different, though at least with Rollin, a steady cult started growing while he was still with us, so he got to leave knowing that there were more and more fans that truly loved and appreciated his films.

That said, it all feels like so little. Maybe part of it was that France, historically, has never been a huge magnet for homegrown horror cinema. There are notable exceptions, like Franju's masterful “Eyes Without a Face,” but compared to the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico and America, it is fairly low on the genre film output. On top of that, no matter what country you live in, horror was and, in many ways, still is considered a notch above pornography and a couple of notches below everything else. (Proof? Note how many A-list directors and actors will refer to films that are clearly horror themed as “thrillers,” practically tripping over themselves to skirt away from the lurid “H” word.)

With a director as unabashedly in love with all things dark and fantastic as Rollin, not to mention one that often incorporated elements of eroticism, he was critically doomed from the get go. Why horror and sex, two fundamental aspects of our species, were and are the red-headed stepchildren of film, is a mystery usually mired in double-standards, puritan-hangovers and smatterings of classism. (And speaking as a red-headed stepchild, I know where I speak from.) After all, war is one of the biggest and most tangible horrors for many on this planet and it is considered a respectable topic for film. But use a mythical device, a la vampires and revenants, and forget about it. Sure, there are horror films that use exploitative elements, but there are equal amounts of dramas that are inherently just as emotionally exploitative. (Exhibit A: “Terms of Endearment.”) The true future of art needs to be vital and with all limitations, antiquated notions and categories sheared to ribbons. Rollin is a godfather of this because he took what he needed from his cinematic and literary heirs and used it to create something new.

His dreamy world haunts not just from fear abut from the ghosts of our own human condition and dark planet. Jean Rollin is a filmmaker whose creative impulse was pure and beautiful, even when it was ugly. As his films are becoming more and more preserved and available, the stronger and more pronounced his legacy grows.

Copyright 2012 Heather Drain


Monday, May 28, 2012

The New Jean Rollin Discs from Kino Lorber/Redemption

The newest batch of DVDs and Blu-Rays from Kino Lorber and Redemption hit stores this week (May 29th) and I am happy to report that all three are absolutely exceptional releases. I have written my thoughts on The Rape of the Vampire, Requiem for a Vampire and The Demoniacs on numerous occasions, so I will just be posting on how these new discs look and sound here as well as offering up some thoughts on the numerous extras. Since all three of these titles were available as part of Encore's incredible box-set collections the big question I am sure most hardcore Rollin fans will have is are these new discs worth the upgrade and I can absolutely answer yes, especially in the case of The Rape of the Vampire and Requiem for a Vampire.

The Rape of the Vampire: Rollin's first film has never looked that good on home video, even Encore's print suffered from a number of issues, so seeing the film so lovingly restored on Redemption's new disc is a real pleasure. Rollin's confrontational black and white debut can now finally be enjoyed via an incredibly vibrant and sharp looking print mastered from the original 35mm negative. Image and detail are sharp throughout and, some minor-print damage aside, The Rape of the Vampire has never looked more glorious or seemed more relevant.
The original French-language soundtrack (presented with optional English subs) is also consistently strong, although some small occasional issues due to the original low-budget production remain. The inventive score from Yves Geraud and Francois Tusques is presented really particularly well on the disc allowing viewers to appreciate just how strong it is.
Extras on the Encore collection included an audio commentary from Rollin and interviews with Jacqueline Seiger, Alain Yves Beaujour and Francoise Tusques. Sadly none of these are available on Redemption's new disc, but some splendid new supplements have been made exclusively for this release including a weighty documentary on the making of the film by Daniel Gouyette (which features informative and moving interviews with Rollin, Jean-Denis Bonan and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou) a video introduction by Rollin, an interview with Jean-Loup Philippe and an alternate (clothed) version of a scene. Rollin's excellent two early short-films Les Amours Jaunes and Les Pays Loin are also on the discs and a wonderful essay by Tim Lucas is featured in the extra 16 page booklet (this is also a part of the other two discs as well).
While the missing extras from the Encore release will make fans wanting to hold onto that version, this edition of The Rape of the Vampire is without question the most essential one and is highly recommended.

Requiem for a Vampire: A framing issue hurt Encore's otherwise splendid edition of Requiem for a Vampire, which contained a Rollin commentary, some alternate scenes and interviews with Louise Dhour and Paul Bisciglia. This new version corrects the framing problem (presenting the film in its correct 1.66:1 aspect ratio) and offers up a additional interviews with Rollin, Natalie Perrey and Jean-Noel Delamarre. The Dhour interview is ported over from the Encore set, although the commentary track is not.
You'll feel like Pony Castel and Mirielle d'Argent are in the room with you while watching Redemptions new disc. Requiem for a Vampire has never been more intoxicating than in this spellbinding new print that brings out Renan Polles brilliant photography tremendously well. Rollin's film has never felt moodier or quite as dazzling as it does with this new disc. I am jealous of newcomers who will get to experience it this way for the first time (it's a far cry from my first experience 15 plus years ago with Something Weird Video's Caged Virgins VHS cut).
Redemption have offered up two-audio tracks (original French and English dub) and both mono mixes sound as good as they can. Pierre Raph's essential score is balanced well with the spare dialogue and has never sounded better.
While the supplements aren't as exhaustive as some of Redemptions other new Rollin discs, the picture quality of this Requiem for a Vampire make it instantly the go-to disc for this mesmerizing title.

The Demoniacs: Of the three new releases in The Cinema of Jean Rollin collection, I would say the least revelatory is the new disc of The Demoniacs (simply due to the fact that the film looked so splendid via Encore's box-set). Redemptions new BD does offer up some additional detail and Jean-Jacques Renon's stunning photgraphy has a renewed clarity that is quite breathtaking.
Encore's set was among the lightest, extras-wise, of their collection with only a commentary by Rollin, some deleted scenes and an interview with the great Willy Braque on hand. Redemption's new disc is, again, missing the Rollin commentary (and Braque's chat is gone as well) but a number of new extras are here including additional deleted footage, two cut sex-scenes and interviews with Rollin, Jean Bouyxou and the much-missed Perrey.
This new disc for The Demoniacs probably sounds the best of the new releases with the mono-French track (again with optional English subs) sounding quite clean and balanced.
The Demoniacs is being presented as an Unrated Extended Cut. Being included, for the first time, is a brief bit of dialogue and an extended sequence of the stunning Joelle Coeur ravaging herself on the beach at the end of the film (these extra bits do not included the explicit closeups offered as an extra on the encore disc).
While the new disc of The Demoniacs is not quite as eye-opening as The Rape of the Vampire and Requiem for a Vampire it is still an essential release and a no-brainer purchase for Rollin fans, especially those that don't have Encore's set.

Thanks to Kino-Lorber and Redemption for continuing their amazing The Cinema of Jean Rollin collection. Be sure to buy these releases and continue to show your support. The next collections are due in late August...the titles, The Living Dead Girl and Two Orphan Vampires!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Ben Haggar from Breakfast in the Ruins on The Escapees (A Guest-Post)

One of my absolute favorite spots on the net is the incredible Breakfast in the Ruins, a film blog run by a really terrific writer named Ben Haggar. I was really excited recently to hear that Ben was going to contribute a guest-post for Fascination and today I am thrilled to present it! So here is Ben's excellent new look at one of Rollin's less-discussed films, the very intriguing Les Paumees Du Petit Matin (The Escapees). Thanks so much to Ben for contributing this very fine piece and I hope everyone will head over to Breakfast in the Ruins after reading!

With the renewed interest in Jean Rollin’s work that has followed in the wake of Kino/Redemption’s reissue campaign and FindersKeepers soundtrack releases, now seems as good a time as any to lavish some attention on what I’d consider to be perhaps the most overlooked item in his catalogue, 1981’s Les Eschappees, aka The Runaways, aka The Escapees.

Long written off as a minor film, ‘The Escapees’ remained largely unseen for many years, only seeing release on Region 2 DVD from Redemption in 2008, seemingly after they’d long cleared their vault of everything else Rollin-related. Even Tohill &Tombs, in their landmark study of Rollin’s work in ‘Immoral Tales’, seem lukewarm on the film, praising the opening and closing scenes and the way the relationship between the central characters is developed, but largely writing it off as a ‘failed thriller’, concentrating on the problems Rollin encountered with proposed co-writer Jacque Ralf, and noting that the film ‘drags woefully’ (Immoral Tales, p.160).

Perhaps this general lack of availability and critical enthusiasm – together with the lack of fantastical or exploitation elements – has tended to make the film a bit of a hard sell for casual fans. Despite all this, I would still consider ‘The Escapees’ to be an essential Rollin film. Though as flawed and idiosyncratic as anything else he lent his name to during the ‘80s, it is still a singularly personal piece of work, invoking all of his key concerns as both a director and a human being, and gaining a particular poignancy through its investigation of what happens when the fantastical world he created in his ‘70s horror films makes the painful transition to the drab and impoverished reality of marginal French life in which those films were actually produced.

It’s certainly hard to imagine a more quintessentially ‘Rollin-esque’ opening to a story than the one found here, as two troubled girls (Laurence Dubas and Christiane Coppé) make their escape from the stifling confines of a particularly oppressive psychiatric institution, united in their search for … who knows what? Adventure, beauty, companionship? Above all, the mysteries of ‘the real world’, of which they know little, despite extrovert Michelle’s claims to the contrary. With a little tweaking, we could almost be watching an unfilmed prequel to ‘Requiem for a Vampire’, but rather than entering a fairytale world of chateaus and vampires, Michelle and Marie now find themselves lost in altogether more mundane circumstances.

Recalling the bleak visual sensibility of the previous year’s ‘Night of the Hunted’, Rollin’s camera captures suburban France at its most dismal and overcast, as the girls undertake their journey through freezing dockyards, rainsodden woods and motorway scrubland. Colour only enters proceedings when they stumble upon Maurice’s travelling show - a threadbare troupe consisting of a couple of exotic dancers and a faded fairground stage-set, who set up for business in a car graveyard near an unnamed port town, performing to a weather-beaten audience of workers, sailors and transients.

The poverty-stricken sadness of Maurice’s show and its patrons is beautifully evoked (presumably because the production itself was pretty poverty-stricken), with the dancers performing to tacky canned music, just in front of the train tracks, where anonymous carriages roll on into the night. Conjuring the most forlorn kind of faded funfair seediness, the scene puts me in mind of the Graham Greene quote immortalised by the Mounds & Circles weblog: “Seediness has a very deep appeal; it seems to satisfy, temporarily, the sense of nostalgia for something lost”.

Although functioning as a simple and affecting tale in its own right, ‘The Escapees’ can on another level be read partly as a extended metaphor for its director’s struggle to realise his more outré visions amid the crushing banality of the world outside his head – an interpretation that the film at times seems to explicitly acknowledge. Certainly, the monologue Maurice delivers to the two girls in defence of his show could scarcely be any more on the nose when it comes to drawing a self-reflexive parallel between the plight of the film’s characters and the way that Rollin viewed himself and his collaborators in the ghetto of porno/horror filmmaking;

“Everyone here is an artiste. A true artiste. And what you see here is theatre. The theatre of the street. The original, the most beautiful. […] Look at my fairground stall, the sailors arguing… it is the great mystery of the fairground show.”

Although impossibly hackneyed by conventional standards (despite the increased realism, Rollin’s gift for naively stilted, unnatural dialogue scenes has not deserted him), the wider resonance of Maurice’s monologue, his exultation of a grand mystery within what any ‘respectable’ citizen would deem a squalid, tacky and dangerous situation, is moving indeed.

There is a certain warmth and romanticism to the way in which Rollin presents Maurice’s show that echoes through the whole film. The drunken crowd remains polite and respectful (for the most part), and a jovial, inclusive atmosphere reigns, even as sexual favours are bought and sold, and as the men invade the stage and lift the dancers above their heads in celebration. The party atmosphere only dissipates when the police arrive, and the crowd abruptly vanishes into the night.

Throughout its run-time, ‘The Escapees’ seems to evoke nostalgia for a kind of human warmth that has been lost from the modern world of wealth and respectability; a warmth that can now be found only amongst misfits and petty criminals, in places where progress fears to tread. Thinking back, this is a theme that can perhaps be traced throughout Rollin’s work, in the comfort his characters seem to find in the old, the derelict, the abandoned – only now the chateaus and cemeteries have been replaced by the community spirit found at Maurice’s show and, later, in Louise Dhour’s docklands bar.

The scenes in Louise’s bar struggle with that particular brand of awkwardness that often afflicts inter-character scenes in Rollin movies, but here too, it’s a convincing sense of warmth and belonging that shines through, anchored by a superb performance from Dhour herself as the matriarchal proprietor, drawing her small ‘family’ of damaged runaways around her as she reads the tarot and imparts advice, sharing an implicit understanding that they all basically share the same history, the same dreams. (A formidable vocalist, her rousing performance of the nautical ballad ‘La Mauvaise Priere’ is a real highlight too.)

It’s perhaps not the most original scenario ever conceived, but again, the simple empathy of Rollin’s approach to his characters gives it a comforting power that’s hard to deny. Until the quartet of decadent rich folk enter proceedings at the film’s conclusion in fact, it’s notable that ‘The Escapees’ is a drama in which the on screen action consists almost entirely of people being kind to each other, as the girls receive unquestioned courtesy and generosity from almost everyone they encounter. The film’s only real antagonists are poverty, social inequality, the law, and the unfortunate constraints of reality itself.

Like all of Rollin’s films, ‘The Escapees’ is an unapologetically sentimental work, thrown together in what can often seem an inexcusably slapdash and fragmentary manner. The earthbound setting perhaps draws undue attention to these perceived imperfections, and the film’s drifting pace, unconcerned with narrative urgency, may prove a bit of a stumbling block for some viewers, just as newcomers to the director’s work might find it hard to deal with the way the characters suddenly lapse into poetic reverie at every opportunity, giving voice to their dreams and fears into stilted, quasi-symbolist fashion.

That the film never even secured a release when it was initially completed is hardly surprising in the face of such wilful eccentricity, but now that we have the privilege of viewing Rollin’s films at our leisure, it would take a hard heart indeed to sneer as Michelle flicks through a picture book, telling Marie of shells shining on the ocean floor and pirates with their cutlasses, or as their friend Sophie announces that her forthcoming journey will take her far away, to unknown adventures. Like the ‘outsider’ and neo-primitive artists Rollin admired so much, his blunt manner of communicating his characters’ inner feelings bypasses the cynicism of any receptive viewer. As fans, we allow him to get away with bungling and pretension that would have us guffawing at the work of any other filmmaker – we can implicitly understand the honesty and depth of feeling he has invested in his characters, and the wider meaning of their plight, and we have no choice but to drop our critical guard accordingly.

Whilst Rollin is often written off as a ‘naive’ filmmaker though (even using the word in a positive context himself in describing films like ‘Requiem..’), his perceived amateurism shouldn’t obscure the fact that much of his technique is still extremely effective. In particular, the experience gained through nearly fifteen years worth of zero budget, shot-on-location filmmaking (has ANY Jean Rollin film ever boasted enough money for a purpose-built set?) had by this stage given him an incredible gift for capturing the emotional resonance of his locations – a skill which is utilised more clearly than ever on ‘The Escapees’.

Seemingly shot over a series of bleak and freezing dawns, the early morning scenes set in and around the docks have an incredibly evocative, sleepless feel to them - a girl slipping out of nightclub door hugging a leather jacket around her, rusty machinery, broken milk bottles and sailors lounging on the wharf watching cargo containers being lifted aboard ship. Whilst the film strives to keep the location fairly anonymous, these images effortlessly capture the transient world of every industrialised port city, from Hamburg to Yokohama, and the way Rollin is able to pull such deep associations from pretty much nothing at all helps highlight his strange, instinctive genius as a director, the surroundings in his films speaking to us as eloquently as his characters’ more direct flights of fancy.

As in ‘Night of the Hunted’, the sudden lurch into sex/violence footage that takes place in the final ten minutes of ‘The Escapees’ is strange and deeply uncomfortable, and, as is often the case in Rollin’s films, the motivation behind its inclusion is uncertain. Was he obliged to insert some salacious material into what would otherwise be a terminally un-commercial film, or was he just including it out of habit by this stage in his career? Or, more interestingly, was he shifting the tone for deliberate effect, to shock and repulse us just when we’d settled into the groove of a modest, heart-warming little film? Despite their tawdry explicitness (instantly upsetting the balance of what would otherwise be the one Rollin film you’d perhaps be able to sell your uptight world cinema fan friends on), the scenes featuring Brigitte Lahaie and Jean Philippe Delamarre as one half of a pair of duplicitous bourgeois couples who trick the girls into accompanying them home are still horribly effective in their own way. By this stage, our identification with Michelle and Marie is so strong that the very thought that they might not make it to the ship that awaits them at the harbour at 4am is unthinkable… and the fact that their fantastical voyage is halted by an invasion of sleaze and gore of course adds a further tragic resonance to the self-reflexive message Rollin seems to be trying to convey in this film.

The struggle between romanticism and realism in Rollin’s later films is nowhere more apparent than in the desperate need we feel for these girls to embark on their journey. Of course stowing away on a naval vessel bound for parts unknown is by any yardstick a pretty bad idea for a pair of young women, but from their own naïve point of view, it is the only possible course of action: to keep moving, to always be ‘elsewhere’, to try anything to escape their dismal surroundings. As Michelle says at the start of the film, “It doesn’t matter where. Elsewhere. There are always elsewheres everywhere.”

At first I thought ‘The Escapees’ and ‘The Runaways’ were pretty bland, utilitarian titles for this movie, but the more I think about them, the more perfect they seem. Michelle and Marie aren’t simply ‘escapees’ from the institution at the outset - their entire lives are focused on escape – from loneliness, from social norms, and from the confines of reality itself.

In one sense, their escape attempt proves futile, as venality and lust leave them more trapped than ever. On the other hand though, isn’t it a *direct* way out of the cold world around them that they’ve been seeking all along? By rolling out the ol’ ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ ending, isn’t Rollin essentially echoing the unsettling final message of many of his best films (Iron Rose, Lips of Blood, to name but a few), encouraging his characters to welcome death with open arms, as an opportunity to step beyond earthly banalities and embrace a kind of eternal mystery..? What are his films after all, if not a celebration of mystery, and what greater mystery can there be than that which lies beyond the veil?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Only the Cinema's Ed Howard on Lips of Blood (A Guest-Post)

***Today I am very pleased to present this guest-post from Ed Howard, one of the best writers on film and music around. Ed runs the terrific Only the Cinema, a blog that features some of the most incredibly absorbing and intelligent writing on film imaginable. I have followed Ed's work at Only the Cinema since he started it back in 2007 and his work is always extremely inspiring. I was thrilled recently when Ed wrote his first piece on one of Jean Rollin's films and I am grateful that he is sharing his new look at Lips of Blood here today! For more information on Ed, please visit his terrific Only the Cinema and comments, of course, are always welcome here. Thanks to Ed for doing this and I hope other writers who admire the cinema of Jean Rollin might consider offering up a guest-post as well!***

Jean Rollin's best films use B-movie horror plots and low-budget production values as portholes into an eerie, unsettling dream world that ultimately has little to do with typical blood-and-gore horror movies. This is especially true of Lips of Blood, one of the director's finest works, and one of his most dreamlike and abstract. The film is a slow, sensuous study of the power of memory and the lure of childhood fantasies, a feverish dream of a film that chronicles a quest that's as much mental as physical.

Frederic (Jean-Loup Philippe) is at a party when he sees a photograph of a ruined castle that triggers a previously suppressed childhood memory or dream. He comes to believe that he's been to this castle as a boy, and that he's forgotten it for some reason; his childhood is a blur to him, and he's long felt disconnected from the stories that his mother (Natalie Perrey) has told him about his forgotten boyhood. The photograph instantly opens a path into his memories, stirring up images of a dreamlike night that he spent in the castle, watched over by a beautiful young girl (Annie Belle) dressed in white. He'd repressed the memories of the castle and the girl, but now that they've entered his mind again, he becomes obsessed, fixated on discovering the castle's whereabouts and trying to locate the girl.

Frederic is haunted by this dreamlike memory, and the film is all about the power that this fixation has over him. At the party at the beginning of the film, he compliments a girl on her perfume, prompting her to pointedly respond, "scents are like memories; the person evaporates but the memory remains." In Frederic's case, the memory too had evaporated for twenty years, but now it's wafted back up into his senses, and he begins seeing the mysterious girl from the castle everywhere. He goes to see a movie — the poster outside is for Rollin's The Nude Vampire, but the theater's actually showing The Shiver of the Vampires, suggesting how intimately connected all these gothic vampire fantasies are — and the girl appears in the theater, beckoning him to follow her. She leads him to a crypt, where Frederic unwittingly releases a quartet of creepy vampire girls (Catherine and Marie-Pierre Castel, Anita Berglund, and Hélène Maguin) who shadow him throughout the rest of the film, continually intervening to rescue him from the mysterious forces that seem intent on stopping him from locating the castle or the girl who dwelled within it.

The film moves at a typically lethargic, dreamlike pace, blending gothic horror imagery — bats and graveyards and vampire girls clad in gauzy robes — with a weird conspiracy thriller vibe. A photographer (Martine Grimaud) who tries to tell Frederic about the castle winds up dead, another woman poses, unconvincingly, as the girl from the castle, and a mysterious assassin tracks Frederic through the night, while the vampires stalk around the fringes of the plot, fading out of the shadows. Rollin's films have often been comparable to the surreal quest narratives of his contemporary Jacques Rivette, with worse acting and more nudity, and nowhere is that comparison more relevant than here. Rollin renders the city as a quiet, nearly unpopulated stage, pools of colored light highlighted in the darkness, shadows cast large and threatening on stone walls as Frederic wanders around the city, searching for answers and chasing phantoms through the streets.

The film feels like a loosely connected series of set pieces, with Frederic's frazzled state of mind creating the sense of disorientation and confusion that dominates his increasingly desperate journey. He begins to doubt his own sanity: the girl from his memory, or his dream, pops into being and blinks out of existence just as suddenly, leading him through the night, eventually guiding him directly to the answer he seeks, the location of the castle from the photo. Meanwhile, the vampires attack and kill random people, baring their uncomfortable-looking fangs and bloodying their mouths on the necks of their victims. At one point, the Castel sisters disguise themselves as nurses in order to rescue Frederic from the mental hospital where he's been locked up by his mother, who seems to know something about all these secrets and mysteries.

Indeed, Frederic's mother provides the obligatory burst of exposition that suddenly explains the story towards the end of the film, setting up the fantastic final act in which Frederic confronts the true nature of his reawakened memories. He's found what he's been searching for, and in the final ten minutes of the film Rollin adopts a tone of lunatic celebration, reveling in the embrace of the supernatural and the bloody. The supernatural is rarely to be feared in Rollin's work. The supernatural is, instead, erotic, alluring, haunting, beautiful, a fixation for Rollin just as the castle becomes for Frederic. There is thus an air of real melancholy in the final act's confrontations between vampires and vampire hunters; Rollin's sympathies are obviously not with the men with their stakes, menacing these girls, but with the vampires themselves, so young and lovely and sensual, retreating in fear before the men. The vampires are the real victims, not to be feared or hated but desired, respected, adored, just as Frederic desires the girl from his memory, who is, of course, also a vampiress, using her power to lure him back to her, to get him to set her free.

Rollin makes the embrace of the supernatural a cause for celebration here, particularly in the ecstatic coda, in which the long-imprisoned vampire relishes her newfound freedom, taking pleasure in the sensuality of nature. Together, Frederic and his vampire love run along the striking, apocalyptic, by now very familiar beach that so often symbolizes the pathway between worlds in Rollin's work. It's here that Frederic embraces his fate and is reborn, and in the finale — at once gloriously silly and wonderfully romantic — the lovers sail off together in a coffin, heading off into a new undead existence together.

***Lips of Blood can be ordered on DVD and Blu-ray here***

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Hidden Cinema of Jean Rollin: Douce pénétration (Gode Story) (1976)

After the unfortunate financial failure of Lips of Blood in 1975, Jean Rollin had no choice but to begin directing again under the pseudonym of Michel Gentil. He had previously shot two films as Gentil (Jeunes Filles Impudiques and Tout le monde il en a deux) in 1973 and 1974 but starting in '76 his main non de plume would be seen on more movie posters than the name Jean Rollin. Indeed by the end of the seventies 'Michel Gentil' would be credited as the director of almost ten films (with Rollin's other moniker Robert Xavier cited with almost another half-dozen).

Gode Story, Rollin's first adult-feature of 1976 (after the infinitely superior Phantasmes in '75) had the more extreme title of Douces pénétrations upon its initial French release. According to the IMDB it also been known as
Fransk weekend and La romancière lubrique during theatrical and home video releases.

While it proved much more financially successful than the masterful Lips of Blood, Gode Story finds Rollin essentially on autopilot as a director and it would be hard to recommend the film to anyone outside of serious fans. Clearly shot extremely quickly, and on the cheap, Gode Story finds Rollin in workmanlike mode and, save a couple of shots of the Castel Twins wandering down a lonely hallway, there is little to suggest that this is the work of one of our great masters of the Fantastique.

It is indeed the presence of the iconic Cathy and Marie-Pierre Castel that will attract most fans to Gode Story. The film would in fact, sadly, mark the final time Rollin would work with the mesmerizing Marie-Pierre (Pony) Castel, as she would retire from cinema after appearing in Francis Girod's Rene the Cane in 1977. Considering how magical the collaboration between Jean Rollin and Pony Castel had been, Gode Story is a rather sad closing-chapter. Rollin would continue working with Cathy Castel, as an actress and make-up artist, throughout the seventies in various adult projects.

Some of the cast and crew for Gode Story will be immediately recognizable to Rollin devotees. The amazing Jean-Jacques Renon photographed the film, as Oscar Lapin, and Lips of Blood composer Didier William Lepauw is credited with the score. Speaking of Lips of Blood, the intoxicating Matine Grimaud is also featured in Gode Story. Perhaps the most familiar face in Gode Story, outside of our beloved Castel Twins, will be Rollin himself, who appears as a hapless chef throughout the film.

Gode Story has a few interesting connections to two other wildly non-conforming filmmakers from the period, Jean-Francois Davy and Jess Franco. Adult actress Jocelyne Clairis had already worked numerous times with Davy before being called on by Rollin and the co-screenwriter of Gode Story, filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bouyxou (who also appears in the film) had worked on several films with Franco in the early seventies before becoming one of Rollin's most trusted collaborators in front of and behind the camera.

Like almost all of Jean Rollin's Michel Gentil films Gode Story can typically only be found via the collector's market. My copy comes from an old French VHS copy and I have no idea if the film has ever appeared on disc anywhere. Due to the Castel Twins appearance, Gode Story will be sort of a 'must-see' work for Rollin obsessives (like myself) but there finally isn't much to recommend about it. It was a film made to help the financial burden that had been placed on Rollin in the mid-seventies and, in that sense, it helped allow the string of truly great works he was able to deliver just a few years down the road.