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Jean Rollin, R.I.P. [Dec. 16th, 2010|10:27 am]
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French filmmaker Jean Rollin has passed away at the age of 72.

Though Rollin directed a number of films in various genres, including hardcore porn, under a variety of pseudonyms, I knew him best as a director of Eurohorror, that peculiar subgenre of horror in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s that favored dream logic, swinging lounge music, bright red blood, and more often than not, a heck of a lot of nudity. Many Eurohorror films had a shared fascination with lesbianism and vampirism, often depicting them hand in hand, as if every vampire were a sexy French version of LeFanu's Carmilla, and Rollin was certainly no exception. He loved the ladies as much as he loved the stage blood.

Let's face it, for all his notoriety and cult appeal, Rollin was at best an awkward director. His films often looked amateurish, slapdash, and his actors seemed chosen more for their looks than their abilities. But he was a great idea man, and he occasionally had an eye for visual poetry. In Night of the Hunted (La Nuit des Traquées, 1979), an environmental accident turns the entire population of a high-rise apartment building into wandering, semi-comatose amnesiacs; zombies, basically, but without the gross faces and hunger for human flesh. Enter a bunch of doctors, only they're not there to cure everyone, they're there to cover up the environmental disaster, which means killing all the victims. To say the ending is downbeat would be an understatement, but it's also beautifully rendered. (Ironically, in order to make ends meet, Rollin spliced a few hardcore sex scenes into this thoughtful horror film and released it the next year as Les Filles Traquées. You don't need to be Einstein to figure out which one had a faster return on investment.)

Living Dead Girl (La Morte Vivante, 1982) might be Rollin's best known film, thanks in part to the Rob Zombie song of the same name. This one too has a great idea buried in some spotty filmmaking: A dead woman named Catherine (Françoise Blanchard, pictured above) in resurrected by a toxic waste spill and comes back as a vampire. Her childhood friend Hélène takes her in (flashbacks reveal they may have been something more than just friends in childhood, of course) and keeps her alive with fresh blood from unwilling victims. She thinks Catherine is still the woman she knew in life, but of course she's more like an animal, and when Hélène can't supply blood anymore, Catherine turns on her. To Rollin's credit, this is portrayed as tragic and inevitable, not as a sequel-baiting twist.

Rollin was prolific and stalwart, working right up to the end of his life, though his more recent films never got the following the ones from his '60s-'80s heyday did. He may not be the best of the Eurohorror filmmakers, but he certainly left his mark on cinema, and his legacy remains for future generations of horror buffs to enjoy.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: mr_earbrass
2010-12-16 05:59 pm (UTC)

Very well said

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Sorry to hear about this--we've been losing a lot of the old guard this year, haven't we? For better or worse, images from The Iron Rose and others were incredibly formative for Young Jesse.
[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2010-12-16 06:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Very well said

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I never saw The Iron Rose. It looks like one of his more surreal pieces.
[User Picture]From: jeffpalmatier
2010-12-16 06:28 pm (UTC)

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Living Dead Girl sounds like it might have been inspired in part by Carmilla.

Loved by legions, misunderstood by many and sadly ignored by the rest, Rollin frequently appeared in the pages of FANGORIA. Our current issue, #299, features one of the final interviews he ever gave, conducted by our French correspondent Caroline Vié. His work is widely available on DVD and is ready to be rediscovered. Within the confines of his catalogue you will find beauty, surrealism, sex, sadness and very real human truths hiding within a fantastical world. There really was no one quite like him.

One of the many ways life is not fair is that there are people who don't get the proper recognition during their life. I've thought how with artists you hope that even if they don't get the recognition they deserve, at least they're able to live comfortably off their work. I hope this was the case with Rollin.
[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2010-12-16 06:57 pm (UTC)

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He certainly worked enough that I imagine he made a comfortable living.
[User Picture]From: dark_towhead
2010-12-16 08:22 pm (UTC)

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Well, this is unfortunate news... If I'd had a hat, I'd take it off.

I was totally taken by The Grapes of Death, a strange flick that's part vineyard-born-zombie movie, part French countryside travelogue. Rollin was a fair entertainer, I suppose. I watched his movies to see just what the Hell he would attempt next.
[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2010-12-16 09:01 pm (UTC)

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He definitely had a flair for weirdness, I'll give him that!
[User Picture]From: nickcato
2010-12-17 02:56 am (UTC)

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I was a MAJOR Rollin fan ever since seeing "CAGED VIRGINS" on VHS (although it's much beeter uncut as REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE.) i also loved THE GRAPES OF DEATH, his take on zombies. Sad news.
[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2010-12-17 03:10 am (UTC)

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It's kind of neat to see how many people were fans of his work!
[User Picture]From: nickcato
2010-12-17 03:12 am (UTC)

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Yes---read about 25 blogs, but only a few (including yours) had anything to say...this one's decent, too: http://bladesew.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/jean-rollin-1938-2010/
[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2010-12-17 03:41 am (UTC)

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A lovely write-up. It's funny they mention Jess Franco. His films are so similar to Rollin's in theme and sometimes even in style that when I first started writing this blog entry I found myself thinking about films that were actually Franco's, not Rollin's. Weird, eh?
[User Picture]From: nickcato
2010-12-17 10:17 pm (UTC)

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Personally I thought Rollin had better style, but yes, they are similar in many respects.
[User Picture]From: nick_kaufmann
2010-12-17 11:55 pm (UTC)

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Between the two, I think Rollin may have had the more artistic eye, but show me a random clip and I'd probably be hard pressed to decide if it was him or Franco.