FASCINATION: THE CELLULOID DREAMS OF JEAN ROLLIN

PrintE-mail Written by Jon Towlson

A female vampire emerges from a grandfather clock at the stroke of midnight. This iconic moment from Le Frisson des Vampires (1970) may be the ‘master image’ of the late, great French surrealist, Jean Rollin. Often derided as a Eurotrash director, or confused with Jess Franco, Rollin is much maligned and misunderstood. As David Hinds explains in this marvellous study of Rollin’s work, partly this is because Rollin’s career has fallen into two very distinct categories.

On the one hand, there are the personal works, those that are imbued with Rollin’s poetic sensibilities; strange, beautiful films that can only be described as art-horror. Rollin’s first film Le Viol du Vampire (1968) caused a riot in the Paris cinema where it was first shown because it broke the conventions of the Hammer vampire film, replacing them with Rollin’s own idiosyncratic thematic preoccupations and striking visual sense. Other films in this category include Requiem pour un Vampire (1971), and his later Fascination (1979) and La Morte Vivante (1982). Hinds aptly describes Rollin’s personal films as ‘gentle, romantic and playful. They often embody an innocent fairytale ambience. They do not aim to directly shock the viewer, but immerse them in another world – a world of the fantastique’.

On the other hand, there are those films on which Rollin worked only as a director-for-hire; impersonal projects that Rollin made under pseudonyms. Rollin made them for the money and put very little of himself into these films, which are shoddy affairs, and include hardcore pornographic titles. Unfortunately, these crassly exploitative films have tended to overshadow his personal work. Amongst these jobbing titles is perhaps his best-known film, the atrocious Le Lac des Morts Vivants (1981), aka Zombie Lake, upon which much of Rollin’s reputation is regrettably based.

Written with the full cooperation of Rollin before his death in 2010, Fascination will do much to reset the balance and help restore Rollin’s reputation as one the most original European horror directors. Hinds devotes careful evaluation both to the personal works and the hack jobs, to those like Lèvres de Sang (1976) and Raisins de la Mort (1978), that fall somewhere in between. Hinds takes each film in turn, provides a full production background and discusses in detail how each fits into the Rollin oeuvre. Illustrated with rare behind the scenes stills and rounded off with an in-depth interview with Rollin himself conducted in 2005, Fascination serves as wonderful introduction to the master’s work. In his attempt to recuperate Rollin as a key figure in horror cinema, Hinds is bound to make you want to seek out at least some of the films of this hitherto underrated artist.

FASCINATION: THE CELLULOID DREAMS OF JEAN ROLLIN / AUTHOR: DAVID HINDS / PUBLISHER: HEADPRESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW


 


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