Saturday, September 11, 2021

Fascination: The Celluloid Dreams of Jean Rollin – review

Author: David Hinds

Publication date: 2016

The blurb: May 1968. Parisian streets are awash with violence and public unrest. In a small cinema, a surreal vampire film causes a riot: The audience smashes up the auditorium, tear out the seats, and chase the film's director onto the street with violent intent. This is the premiere screening of Jean Rollin's feature debut, The Rape of the Vampire.

An outsider of French cinema, Rollin's films are unique and dreamlike. They offer tales of mystery and nostalgia - of love, childhood, obsolescence and seductive female vampires with a thirst for blood and sex. Rollin made strange, evocative and deeply personal horror films. But he was also at the heart of the French pornographic revolution after the abolishment of censorship (discovering porn queen Brigitte Lahaie, later to star in many of his films).

Funding his own projects, Rollin defiantly made the films he wanted to make and in so doing created a fantastique genre unlike any other. Films like The Nude Vampire, The Living Dead Girl, Fascination and The Grapes of Death are now celebrated as the work of an auteur, one who confounds preconceived notions of what constitutes 'Eurotrash' cinema.

This book is devoted to the director and all his films, across all genres. Written with full co-operation from Jean Rollin, shortly before his death in 2010, it contains exclusive interviews and archive material.

The review: The easiest way to describe this volume is that it is author David Hinds love letter to the works of Jean Rollin and that is evident all the way through. The book opens with several essays on Rollin and his work and is then followed (for the vast proportion of the book) with a look at his films in the form of a survey, I guess. The personal ones are looked at first, a large proportion of which featured vampires, then his commercially tackled films worked at under pseudonyms for a paycheck (not in as much detail), and finally a saunter through the hardcore films he directed (many of which are now lost to the mists of time and were of little importance as films to the auteur). The end of the book transcribes an interview with Rollin conducted in person and another with producer Lionel Wallmann conducted through correspondence.

Now I do like Rollin’s oeuvre but I couldn’t call myself an expert so, when it comes to facts I have to put my trust in Hinds. Unfortunately, there is at least one glaring error when writing about The Nude Vampire he mentions “the Castel Twins, who would appear in Rollin’s next film, Le Frisson des Vampires”. Not so, whilst Marie-Pierre Castel appeared in both films, Catherine Castel appeared in the former but not the latter. Perhaps a simple slip… but when looking at the latter film he puts “the servant girls played by the Castel twins”. As suggested Marie-Pierre did play one of the servant girls but against Kuelan Herce and the author even includes a screenshot from the film of Castel and Herce together. It is a sloppy moment and makes one worry if there are other sloppy moments that went unnoticed? I am trusting not.

Having said that, reference works about Rollin are uncommon and one can feel the love for the auteur’s output in the chatty style. There are a couple of references but not a large number and the bibliography is of Rollin’s output. There is no index but, as most of the volume is a survey of his work, then this is probably not as necessary than it would be in some reference works. With my reservation, outlined above, notwithstanding this is important as it fills a gap in the market. 7 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

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