Friday, January 19, 2007

Jean Rollin's Les Nuit Des Traquees.

Encore Film's most recent addition to their splendid collection of Jean Rollins films is his 1980 La Nuit Des Traquees (The Night Of The Hunted). Long considered one of Rollin's weakest films, I was struck by how much this film has stuck with me since I first saw it several years ago. It is one of the most un-Rollin like films he ever made in that his typically Gothic setting is traded in for a more cold interior modernistic look. This film is often compared to Cronenberg's Shivers and I think that's pretty spot on, with both film's sharing a very chilly clinical feel.
Rollin's work stars the incredibly beautiful and talented Brigitte Lahaie and I feel that this is one of her finest performances, if definitely her most heartbreaking.
The plot centers around a group of people who have been affected by a radioactive leak and can no longer hold onto to any memories. As the film progresses the condition gets worse until they are literally just walking blanks. It's the plot itself and the lonely tone that Rollin so successfully gets that attracts me so much to this film. I have thought it is a bit like Robbe-Grillet re-writing Memento. It is absolutely a very flawed work that is hampered by a minuscule budget and extremely tight shooting schedule. Lahaie points out in one of the disc's interviews that she worked longer for four minutes screen time on Philip Kaufman's Henry and June than the she did for Rollin's whole feature.
The film, despite it's flaws, features some of Rollin's most poetic scenes. The love scene between Lahaie and the young man who finds her wandering at the film's beginning might seem overly prolonged, but when you realize that her character is desperately trying to find something her memory can hold onto it becomes one of the most poignant scenes in Rollin's whole oeuvre. The film's final moments of the two lover's extended walk is equally haunting and sadly triumphant in that they are joined together as an equally clean slate.
Dominique Journet is effective as Lahaie's friend who is also infected and several familiar faces from Rollin's past appear throughout the film.
Encore's new special edition continues the great work they are doing with Rollin's catalogue. The gorgeous slip case houses two dvds, the first holding just the film in it's original French language with no less than eleven subtitle options (including English) and the second disc houses the generous extras.
The extras consist of two informative audio commentaries, one featuring Lahaie and the other with just Rollin. Lahaie is obviously enjoying watching the film again and mentions in her interview that she had just recently seen it. Rollin remains as fascinating as ever and it's always a pleasure to listen to him reminisce and he is very open about the films flaws as well as strengths.
The disc also features interviews with Lahaie, producer Lionel Wallmann and a fascinating talk with Alain Plumey. The Plumey interview also showcases clips of his Museum of Eroticism that he has obviously worked very hard on and is very passionate about. A nice photo gallery is also included with selections from the minimalist score by Philippe Brejean, working here under the name of Gary Sandeur. Rounding out the extras are some trailers and some pretty unnecessary harder outtakes of two love scenes, neither involving Lahaie. Finally a very nice 32 page book is included, only about half the size of the earlier Encore releases but still a lovely thing to have.
Encore's transfer is much more crisper and colorful than the previous Redemption disc from several years ago. Some grain is still evident but this is the best this film has ever looked and it is a fine print, it's actually nice to see that this film hasn't been overly digitized.
Rumor has it that this is the last of the Rollin special editions from Encore, I really hope they continue with his catalogue as possibly his finest film Fascination is still in the wings. Encore should be commended for putting together a really great special edition of a very flawed but important film to one of France's most iconic auteur's.

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