I feel like I've been majorly slacking off with my blog, but, like everyone else during the holidays, I've had a lot on my mind. Yesterday I was shocked out of my stupor and greatly saddened to learn that Jean Rollin passed away.
With a career lasting almost fifty years, Rollin has long been one of my favorite directors. He might just be on the top of my list of "most favorite directors I can never recommend to other people." I discovered his La morte vivante in high school and had a shitty VHS bootleg I would watch to fall asleep. And this is primarily the reason I have such a hard time recommending him - his films are beautiful, dreamlike visions full of naked women, bloody lips, graveyards and usually have little to do with narrative plot structure. They tend to get lumped under the nebulous categories of Eurosleaze, Eurotrash or exploitation. Really, they are pure visual poetry, full of subtle horror and lyrical eroticism. Whether you'll be into it or not I can't really say.
The kindest of his critics have called Rollin a headliner of the Cinema Fantastique, which you can read more about in books like Immoral Tales that cover Rollin, Jess Franco, Larraz, Borowczyk, etc. Many of my favorite directors fit into this category. This wide variety of films usually includes elements of horror, the fantastic, the surreal, the absurd, and the erotic. Most of these directors, like Rollin, were never really that successful but didn't let that impede their careers. For Rollin, filmmaking was his life, not just his profession, and though he didn't always make good films, he made them with style, grace, and passion. His first film, Le viol du vampire, caused a riot in the theater. He also has the distinction of creating the first French gore film: Les raisons de la mort.
If you have little experience with Rollin, I would recommend Requiem pour un vampire, Fascination, Levres de sang, Les raisons de la mort and La morte vivante, which will always be one of my favorites. Make sure you stay away from Zombie Lake. Rollins' films desperately need to be cleaned up and rereleased, a process that has fortunately been started by Kino Lorber.
If you want to find out more about the late, wonderful Jean Rolling, you could go to his official page, check out some Kino Eye articles on his work or a great Images issue about Rollin.
May he spend eternity in a graveyard full of bloody, naked women.