DVD/Blu-ray: Le Cinema Fantastique de Jean Rollin

Shiver of the Vampires

There was no director like Jean Rollin, the French horror fantasist who died in 2010 and left behind a strange and wonderful (and sometimes horrible) legacy in his distinctive films. His reputation never really extended beyond cult circles but the weird sensibility and distinctive style and imagery of his sex-and-horror exploitation films, and his ability to create unsettling atmosphere out of simple locations and minimalist sets, made him a legend in some circles.

His films are categorized as “horror” by genre and they are obsessed with vampires and ghosts and spirits from past eras, but they really belong to a genre all their own. Imagine the poetry of Jean Cocteau meeting the emotionless performances of Robert Bresson in erotic fantasies and surreal dreams of sex and blood, shot on starvation budgets and rushed shooting schedules with porn stars taking the leads.

These weird fantasies plunge viewers into surreal worlds out of time and place where figures (usually nude women) wander deserted landscapes and abandoned villas, cemeteries, and ruins, as if hypnotized by the possibilities of magic beneath these rarified locations. There’s a bizarrely mundane strangeness to his films, a matter-of-fact directness coupled with deadened, flat performances, austere sets and locations, and an unadorned camera style. Yet Rollin has an eye for modestly magnificent locations (castles, courtyards, cemeteries, cobblestone streets) that become ominous when deserted and lit with a practical minimalism at night.

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Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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