Monday, March 27, 2017

La Nuit des Horloges – review

Director: Jean Rollin

Release date: 2007

Contains spoilers

La Nuit des Horloges, or Night of the Clocks, was the second to last film directed by Jean Rollins and, in many respects, is the most difficult of his films to review – or at least it is for me.

There are many films that can be seen as owing a debt to the works of Rollin, others that are almost a love letter to his output. In some respects this could also be said of his own film Lost in New York but that had nothing on this.

clock in flames
La Nuit des Horloges takes the Rollin mythology and symbology and makes it about himself. In many respects it becomes a paean to his oeuvre, a love letter to the auteur and the works he created. In other ways it is a deliberately disjointed inventory of his own works. The story suggests that the filmmaker Michel Jean (rather than Jean Michel) has died (whilst travelling we later hear, though the coffin was returned sealed and no one has seen his body). We hear of the house of the sinned ones in the time of the clock – of course clocks were an important part of the Rollin symbology starting with Les Frisson Des Vampires. Rollin said, of that, “Les Frissons Des Vampires is my first film where there appears the grand-father clock, serving as a link between two universes and out of which characters appear.” Now they are a link to his various worlds of imagination.

Ovidie as Isabelle
The introduction also tells us of “those who are dead but are not really dead”. Whilst almost vampiric, this refers, I think, to his characters generally. By a disused railway, his cousin Isabelle (Ovidie) walks. She reaches a chair intent on reading a novel he gave her the time she met him as a child. She knows he is dead and that she has inherited his country house and, perhaps, her seeking to know him through the novel and his films is due to the fact that she never met him when she grew up. She notices a novelty head on the floor and picks it up, it is fanged and there is a flash of the vampire queen from Rape of the vampire.

Sabine Lenoël as Black Angel
A woman (Sabine Lenoël) walks from the tunnel, she has black wings and recurs through the film. Later we hear that she was a character in a previous film – Sabine Lenoël was in Fiancée of Dracula – and she resides in a film he never made – in the place of the burned forest. She also suggests that he promised her one more death in a film to come – the actress would go on to play Euryale in his last film Le masque de la Méduse. She tells Isabelle to beware the clocks and suggest that she search for him at Père Lachaise Cemetery – a location, of course, often used by Rollin.

Simone Rollin
There she sees, and sometimes interacts, with a variety of his characters including the Two Orphan Vampires. Following this she travels to the country house. It would be simply too difficult to continue running through the film as that takes from the lyrical value of it. There are certain appearances within the film that should be mentioned. Rollin’s wife Simone appears in the film and speaks, at one point, of being his inspiration and I have no doubt that this was true.

Stars of his films appear also. Françoise Blanchard, who was the Living Dead Girl, appears in haunting scenes shot within La Specola, Florence. Jean-Loup Philippe, a stalwart of several of Rollin’s films, appears as himself; though he does not seem to know where his characters end and he begins, and he travels through the clocks looking for a lost Michel Jean film. Dominique – who famously emerged from a clock in Les Frisson Des Vampires plays herself and is amused when Isabelle steps out of a clock. There is footage from many more films than I have listed.

Two orphan vampires
So, what can I say about the film. Simply that I cannot, for once, score it. If you are a fan of Rollin and his work, if you have watched a majority, or all, of his output then I have no doubt you will love the film. If you hate his films, then you will hate this too. If you are unaware of his output then this is not the film to start with, a grounding in the mythology, the symbology and the films he uses is probably essential. And that is the best way, I think, to evaluate this strange and, for me, fascinating film.

The imdb page is here and, as I researched the film for the review I came across this marvellous page on a marvellous site.

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