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Surviving Cinema - 'Jean Rollin'

Buried in Ratline post-production for the bulk of 2010, I seldom saw the light of day.  Only on rare occasion did I venture, weak and delirious, from my edit suite to make my way to a movie theater.  Therefore, I was not surprised that of FEARnet's top five films of 2010, I had seen exactly zero of them.  In case you missed 'em, here they are.

Imdb.com listed the top 25 films of 2010 based on user ratings.  Of those, I had only seen two on the big screen - Shutter Island and Inception.  I really enjoyed Shutter Island, and I thought Inception was amazing - a rare example of inventive and deeply intelligent filmmaking supported by a big Hollywood budget.  I guess I'm not alone in my high opinion of the film, as it was ranked number one on the list. 

Number nine on the Imdb list was Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.  I caught this one on DVD.  The other 22 films listed I had not seen.  I had never even heard of some of them.  What the hell is Megamind

So, obviously, Ratline disconnected me from the rest of the world as I slogged through production and post-production.  Good thing I'm happy with the way the movie turned out - otherwise I'd be demanding that two years of my life back.

Now that 2010 is almost behind us, and the holiday season is upon us, I've been thinking about spinning up my Silent Night, Deadly Night DVD to get myself in the proper holiday spirit.  However, that title may have to shift to the backburner as I now feel compelled to revisit the Jean Rollin films in my collection.

French horror/erotic filmmaker Jean Rollin (The Nude Vampire, The Living Dead Girl, Fascination, Requiem For A Vampire, The Grapes Of Death) passed away on December 15th at the age of 72.  I've been a huge fan of this director for many years, so his death stunned me - even though I've known for a long time that the filmmaker's health was in decline. 

Jean Rollin, who's been directing movies since the late 60s, and has over 40 feature films on his resume, never really got the spotlight he deserved.  On Twitter, it seemed only about nine people even knew who he was (and six of them were European).  Jean Rollin has a small, passionate fan base, but many horror fans - especially Americans - are unaware of this unique and fascinating filmmaker.  I know FEARnet Editor Lawrence P. Raffel is, like me, part of the Jean Rollin film cult.  If you need an introduction to the world of Rollin, check out Lawrence's look back and selection of YouTube clips here.

Jean Rollin began his career working on documentaries and films for the military.  His controversial feature film debut, The Rape Of The Vampire (1968) led to Rollin becoming a trailblazer in the French film industry.  The more explicit sexuality on display in his gothic horror tales broke new ground and established a trend.  Along with other filmmakers in Europe, Rollin helped the horror and sex combo catch traction in the European film market.  Their work was not only marketable at the time - it had lasting influence on the genre that can still be seen in today's horror movies.

The dream-like, visually poetic style of Jean Rollin's films set them apart from the more jagged and jolting films of Lucio Fulci and Joe D'Amato, the more seedy films of Jess Franco, the more brash films of Dario Argento, and the more traditionally gothic or comic-book style films of Mario Bava.  Rollin's films were always made on the lowest of budgets, pushing the director to find cinematic poetry in the most simple things.  Despite the occasional clunky special effect or weak performance, Rollin's pacing, inventive storytelling, and eye for compelling imagery elevated this director's low budget b-movies to sinister, macabre, erotic, and delirious works of art.
  
Thanks for reading.

-Eric Stanze

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