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Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Moon in the Gutter is coming to Region 1 DVD


A kind reader has brought it to my attention that Cinema Libre has signed up with Jean-Jacques Beineix to re-release his historic catalogue of films in the United States. This group includes my beloved The Moon in the Gutter, as well as Betty Blue and several of his other films. DVD's are expected to word on extras yet but, since Beineix is directly involved, I suspect we might get some real special treats. I am thrilled at this news and am so grateful that these incredibly special films are reappearing again, especially Moon in the Gutter, which hasn't been available in the States for more than twenty years.

Recently at Fascination: The Jean Rollin Experience

Jean Rollin Requiem for a Vampire 5

I have just completed my look at Jean Rollin's fourth feature film, 1971's Requiem for a Vampire, over at Fascination and invite anyone interested over to check out my multi-post tribute to the film. I will be beginning my look over there at the incredible The Iron Rose (1973) later this week. Thanks to everyone so far who has visited my side project dedicated to one of my favorite filmmakers.

The Cinema of Jean Rollin: Requiem for a Vampire (1971)

Eloquent, expressive and altogether haunting, Jean Rollin’s fourth feature film,
1971’s Vierges et Vampires (Requiem for a Vampire) shows him as an artist totally in control of his own art and totally separate from anyone else in cinema before or since.

Rollin admitted in his introduction to Requiem for a Vampire in Virgins and Vampires that by 1971 he was, “used to the critics insults, the public outcry” and that with the film he, “started shooting for (his own) personal pleasure exclusively since the others had rejected” his past works. It’s that striking spirit of independence that finds its way into every frame of Requiem for a Vampire, a totally secure and confident work that has our guy making one of the purest Jean Rollin films imaginable.

For fans of Jean Rollin’s oeuvre, the images in Requiem for a Vampire are legendary. The opening shots Marie-Pierre Castel and Mireille Dargent dressed as clowns in a never explained high speed shoot out to the many shots of the two of them walking alone and in silence through fields, an empty cemetery and a ruined castle will be chill inducing for admirers of Rollin. A friend once spoke of Requiem for a Vampire reverentially by stating that in the hands of anyone else it would have been an incredibly boring and poor piece of filmmaking, but Jean Rollin’s uncompromising and beautifully singular style makes it all seem so profound and moving.

Attempting to replay the minimal plot of Requiem for a Vampire is a bit senseless. Rollin stated in Virgins and Vampires that the work was “an attempt to simplify the structure of a film to an extreme” and it does so with remarkable veracity. One can imagine the film set to an unwritten opera by Philip Glass or Terry Riley as it contains so many of the repetitive and hypnotic methods inherent in much if the minimalist music that was beginning to come out of the period. Along with being a love letter to a particular style he had perfected, Rollin is clearly building his own mythology with Requiem for a Vampire and he would recount to Peter Blumenstock in Virgins and Vampires as well as Video Watchdog that he was more and more making, “references to (his) earlier films” and that he was looking to, “connects dreams and stories like a construction system and (that) the audience can make their own thing out of it.”

Requiem for a Vampire is a bit of a hard film to nail down. Cohill and Tombs would state the film works as a, “straight horror film and an exploration of personal mythology.” in Immoral Tales but it strays as far from the idea of a ‘straight horror’ film as possible at times. Surprisingly comic (an early sequence involving Castel and an outdoors street vendor is one of the silliest and most infectiously fun moments in Rollin’s canon), undeniably erotic and strikingly mournful, Rollin’s fourth film is a work that defies categorization. Perhaps Rollin himself placed it in the best context when he wrote in Virgins and Vampires that, “excluding the timid erotic scenes”, the work, “could be a film for children made by children”, and that finally it is very much, “a fairy tale.”

Shot quickly in and around the ruins of a dungeon owned by the Duchess of Roche-Guyon, Rollin recalled in Encore’s booklet for the film’s special edition DVD release that it had all come from a spidery script, “written naively without thought, almost in automatic writing, without prior idea and above all without reflection. It’s nothing else but a simple stream of ideas out of an unconstrained imagination.” While the film is controlled by the lovely team of Castel and Dargent (whom Rollin recalls on Encore’s commentary track as two girls he loved that hated each other) other familiar faces pop up throughout its less than ninety minute running time including the hypnotically strange Dominique and musician turned actress Louise Dhour (featured in a terrific interview on Encore’s set), who would be so memorable in Rollin’s 1974 production, Demoniacs.

Inspired by the paintings by Paul Delvaux, and working with a young but stylish cinematographer named Renon Polles, Jean Rollin injects every frame of Requiem for a Vampire with a striking and languid authority. Not in a hurry and delighting in capturing moments that other filmmakers would scoff at, Jean Rollin has by this point totally perfected the deliberately slow and mesmerizing pace that so many of his fans have come to worship and revere over the years. The director himself would state in Encore’s booklet about his most “childish and personal” film that he “was beginning to obtain a certain authority” in his command of the medium, and it's not a stretch to say that every film he has made since owes at least something to the evocative images of Marie-Pierre Castel and Mireille Dargent running from something unseen throughout this, one of his most iconic and necessary works.

The near silent (dialogue wise) Requiem for a Vampire would have a fairly successful run in France and throughout parts of Europe but not surprisingly it was butchered for its US release, and retitled with the wincingly exploitative Caged Virgins moniker. Widely considered one of the best Rollin films, the film is available on a bare bones Region 1 DVD from Redemption (featuring a solid visual presentation) as well as several varying DVDs throughout England and Europe.
Collectors and lovers of Rollin’s work should seek out Encore’s impressive three disc box set which features a beautiful print (I have read some complaints stating that the picture is slightly squeezed but honestly on my player and computer it looks just beautiful) and a terrific set of extras (many of which I have already highlighted in previous posts). Hardcore collectors are advised to seek out the old Something Weird VHS under the title of Caged Virgins, which features some needless additional footage that all but destroys Rollin’s deliberately maintained and incredibly effective pacing.

Called, “a definitive work of French fantastic cinema, post 1970.” By Tim Lucas in the pages of Video Watchdog 31, Requiem for a Vampire is one of the most ideal introductions to Jean Rollin’s filmography to newcomers. It is also one of the most representative and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that a person who isn’t won of by the delightfully different and distinctive images in Requiem for a Vampire will sadly always probably fall outside of the circle of Jean Rollin fans.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Royal Tenenbaums: Five Covers

Royal Tenenbaums 2

The Royal Tenenbaums struck a deep emotional chord in me when I saw it opening day in 2001, and it has continued to resonate since. Wes Anderson's (and Owen Wilson's) moving family story of betrayal and redemption will be near the top of my list of favorite films of the decade when I present it at the end of 2009.
I adore the inventive covers that pop up throughout the film, and since I didn't include any in yesterday's post, I thought I would present five favorites now.

Royal Tenenbaums 4

Royal Tenenbaums 5

Royal Tenenbaums 8

Royal Tenenbaums 11

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

James Bond in the Sixties (Poll Results)

Thanks to everyone who voted in the poll based around James Bond in the sixties. I am surprised and thrilled to see that I am not the only one who considers On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to be among the great Bond films, as it did indeed finish number one. I would have ranked Thunderball much higher but otherwise the results are pretty spot-on with my tastes. Thanks again to those who participated and here are the final results:

On Her Majesty's Secret Service 48 (44%)
Goldfinger 46 (42%)
From Russia With Love 40 (37%)
Dr. No 36 (33%)
Thunderball 33 (30%)
You Only Live Twice 27 (25%)
Casino Royale 26 (24%)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Return of Odessa

The Bee Gees stunning 1969 double album Odessa is finally getting the treatment it deserves early next year in a sure to be essential 3 disc set from Rhino. The reissue of one the most majestic albums of the sixties (or any other decade you care to name) contains the original iconic album in mono and stereo formats and has a bonus disc featuring a whopping 23 unreleased tracks. The unreleased material consists of demos, alternate mixes and some promotional material. Rhino's previous Bee Gees reissues of their masterful first three albums are among the most loving and comprehensive in my collection and I expect the same from Odessa. I just hope it doesn't take Rhino as long to deliver their work from the early to mid seventies, including what I think is The Brother Gibbs greatest triumph, 1971's Trafalgar.

***As a side note, if you have only heard the Bee Gees from the Saturday Night Fever period do yourself a favor and check out their pre 1977 material for some of the most sublime and moving British pop music of the rock era.***

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jean Rollin: The Collaborators (Marie-Pierre Castel)

Whether she is going by the name Pony Castel or Pony Tricot, Marie-Pierre Castel remains one of the most bewitching and memorable figures in the world of French film in the seventies. Lovely, graceful and endearingly witty, several of Jean Rollin's key works are unthinkable without her striking presence.
Information on my favorite Castel is a bit hard to come by. She was born in 1950 and between the years 1970 and 1977 she appeared in just eleven features, sometime with her twin sister Cathy and sometimes without. Of these eleven films, seven were directed by Jean Rollin. The remaining features have for the most part unfortunately been all but lost in time, with the exception of her final film, 1977's Rene The Cane, a film directed by Francis Girod starring Sylvia Kristel and Gerard Depardieu.
These behind the scenes shots from Requiem for a Vampire capture Marie at her peak, filming what would become her most famous and iconic role. More to come on Marie-Pierre here in the future.

***These shots are all taken from the incedible slideshow on Encore's Requiem for a Vampire box set. Please buy the set to the many others.***