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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cult Film Wallpapers Link

I have decided to phase out my Photobucket account so I have opened up a side blog that I am going to use exclusively to host the screenshot wallpapers I make here and at my other blogs. I enjoy making them and want them to be easily accessible for readers who are interested. Nothing will change here...each week a new wallpaper thumbnail will continue to appear to the right, only when you will clink on it you will no longer be taken to Photobucket but instead to this spot, which I have called Cult Film Wallpapers. I am currently putting all my old ones on there and should have it completed and ready for just new creations by the end of the weekend. By the way, this week's shot I captured of Catherine Jourdine in Alain-Robbe Grillet's Eden and After is perhaps my favorite one I have done, and I hope it proves a fitting kick-off to the special month I have planned for February.

Two Appreciated Awards

I wanted to thank Kate at the great Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire for awarding my Jean Rollin side project, Fascination, it's first blogging award. The Dardos has been making the rounds lately and I was thrilled to have one of my blogs recognized.
I also wanted to thank author Tara Hanks for awarding Moon in the Gutter with the Butterfly blogging award, which from what I gather is typically given to more Literature oriented blogs. Tara, a writer who shares my love for Marilyn Monroe among other things, runs a great website along with her blog and I invite everyone to check it out for information on her work. Thanks again to both Kate and Tara for honoring my work here and at Fascination.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fascination Receives The Dardos Award

I am very happy to announce that Kate at the essential Love Train for The Tenebrous Empire has seen fit to award Fascination with its very first blogging award, The Dardos. I love Kate's blog and I am very honored to have been one of five blogs selected by her for this award.

Jean Rollin Home Video Designs: Lips of Blood

Here are four different home video designs for Lips of Blood. I am aware that there are a few more and I will post them if I can locate better quality scans.



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Jean Rollin Poster Designs: Lips of Blood

Here are three versions of the stunning Philippe Druillet designed poster for Lips of Blood.


Lips of Blood Poster

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Operation Screenshot (Films of the 2000s): Martin Scorsese's The Departed (2006)

While I suspect that this might be one of the more unpopular choices of this series so far, I am actually extremely happy to include it. After being incredibly disappointed by Scorsese's films since Bringing Out The Dead, I had particularly looked forward to The Departed. However with my first viewing I only found it to be a partial return to form. Revisiting the film though has been a great treat and I now think it's his finest work since Casino and possibly The Age of Innocence. Complaints that Scorsese is revisiting themes he has explored time and time again don't ring true to me as I expect my favorite filmmakers to return to many of the same thematic and personal obsessions throughout their career. The Departed is a thrilling and hugely entertaining film, and and Martin Scorsese is one of the few American filmmakers who would place a film in my best of lists of the seventies, eighties, nineties and now this decade. God bless him...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Coming in February

I’m going to mix things up here a little bit at Moon in the Gutter in February and I hope the month long change proves enjoyable. With just a few exceptions, my favorite posts here since beginning this venture a couple of years back have been the ones focusing on films that have slipped through the cracks for one reason or the other. So throughout the month of February I will be having a Missing in Action on Region 1 DVD blowout. Be on the lookout for posts on a variety of films ranging from art-house classics, rare exploitation films to mainstream American works that for whatever reason have all still failed to secure an American DVD release. Many of the films I will be covering have also failed to secure any sort DVD release so hopefully my worldwide readers will stay interested as well. I will try and stay away from films (like The Magnificent Ambersons) that have been high on most film fans want lists and will instead focus on more forgotten or obscure works, but I will be posting on a few sorely missing titles (like Ken Russell’s The Devils) whose absences have already been greatly lamented.

Also I would like to extend an invite to all of my blogging buddies reading to salute their own favorite missing in action title (or titles) sometime in February as well. Send me the link to your post if you choose to do one and I will create a special side panel here throughout the month to link back to it. Give Moon in the Gutter a shout out as well if you choose to join in.

I hope the month proves enjoyable and I am looking forward to getting it going next week as the new month begins.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Over at Fascination: The Jean Rollin Experience

Today I will be concluding my look at The Demoniacs over at Fascination: The Jean Rollin Experience and I will begin my look at Lips of Blood over there later this week. I have also started a poll based on his key works of the seventies that I invite everyone interested to participate in, and will be offering up a look at the Michel Gentil signed Tout le monde il en a deux as well in the next few days. Thanks to the Moon in the Gutter readers who have been checking in on Fascination as it's been a blast putting it together.
Followers of my other ongoing side project Nostalgia Kinky have probably noticed that it has been inactive for the last month or so but it will be kick starting again as well closer to February.

The Cinema of Jean Rollin: Les Demoniaques (1974)

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More than any other film he ever made, Jean Rollin’s 1974 feature Les Demoniaques (The Demoniacs) shows the director’s absolute love and admiration for the adventure classics that he grew up with. Rollin himself recalled in the film’s audio commentary on Encore’s box-set that he was looking to capture, “the ambiance of old adventure films” that he saw as a child, especially the “pirate films’ that had captured his youthful imagination so much.

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Following La Rose De Fer’s lead of abandoning the Vampire genre he was most known for, The Demoniacs tells a simple but effective tale of a band of rogue pirates who are haunted by a couple of lost young girls they raped and murdered in the film's opening scenes. Part ghost story, part erotic adventure with bits of dark comedy thrown in for good measure, the self proclaimed ‘Expressionist’ film The Demoniacs is quite unlike anything else in Rollin’s filmography, and yet it is undeniably a Jean Rollin movie.

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A failure at the time, The Demoniacs has become one of Jean Rollin’s most popular films, with several images of lead actress Joëlle Coeur taken from the work becoming some of the most representative of Rollin’s career. Truthfully though, The Demoniacs was a plagued production (that Rollin would mention in Encore’s booklet actually caused him to go into the hospital due to exhaustion for a two week stay after shooting wrapped) and the fact that it came out so well is a tribute to Rollin’s vision and artistic merit more than anything else.

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Fighting the producers and distributors of the film from day one who demanded a lower than usual budget for what was one of Rollins most ambitious scripts (Rollin mentioned in Encore’s booklet that the only thing General Films cared about was indeed saving money), struggling with several cast members he didn’t want, and dealing with a usually more than reliable cinematographer whose personal problems were getting the best of him, Jean Rollin had his back up against the wall while shooting The Demonaics and there are moments in the flawed but masterful film where this is evident. Nowhere near as perfect in its execution as works like Le Frisson des Vampires or Requiem for a Vampire, The Demoniacs finally seems to succeed by its sheer uncompromising nature. Once again, this isn’t a film made for the masses but, like Rollin’s best work, a picture made by an artist unwilling to compromise his own unique and singular vision no matter the struggles facing him.

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Originally called Les Diablesses in its written form, which Rollin, according to Encore's booklet, had to change after he found out the “copyright wasn’t free”, The Demoniacs is very much the ‘expressionistic’ film he set out to make, although one wishes a larger budget would have been afforded to the director so his complete vision could have been realized. Abandoning any semblance of reality in its ninety minute running time, and using the destroyed and pillaged ship as a warped and fractured companion for the mindset of the drunken and brawling characters Rollin populates the film with, the director manages a lot on General’s tiny budget and during its best moments The Demoniacs achieves the kind of narcotic dreamlike quality that can be found in the best of films that are often placed in the expressionism category.

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One of the main problems handed to Rollin during the production of The Demoniacs, and one of the main things wrong with the film, is the unavailability of the much needed Castel Twins for the parts of the film's avenging ghosts. In their place producer Lionel Wallman brought Lieva Lone and Patricia Hermenier, two totally inexperienced young women who fail to ever really connect to Rollin’s highly stylized world at any point during The Demoniacs. Rollin still seems bitter about it, although he admits on Encore’s commentary that he liked Lone, and Hermenier would turn out to be one of the most difficult actors Rollin ever had to work with on a set. It’s hard to watch The Demoniacs today and not wish that The Castel Twins would have been available for the parts as they would have been absolutely haunting.

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Of course, Wallman didn’t have a lot of options in 1974 in regards to the casting of a Jean Rollin film. Rollin recalled in Encore’s booklet that at this point he was, “the bete-noire of the cinema” and to many people’s eyes, “the devil” and more often than not his offers to young actors were ignored. Rollin, in the film’s commentary, went so far as to recall that his reputation was so bad at this point that there were even rumors that a young actress on one of his sets would end kidnapped or murdered, so with this in mind one can be perhaps a little more forgiving of Wallman’s blunder in regards to Lone and Hermenier.

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Thankfully making up for the the two miscast young girls is Joëlle Coeur, seen here making her second of three appearances in a Rollin film, delivering one of the great performances in all of the director’s canon. Seeming to understand the silent like performance style of overstatement perfectly, Coeur delivers a fascinating and hypnotic performance that finds the perfect balance between the utterly sublime and almost ridiculous.

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Joining her in her endeavors are Willy Braque (whom Rollin would remember as being, “a very strange guy” and “a little paranoid”in European Trash Cinema 8) and John Rico, who found a style of, “special overacting” that Rollin said really appealed to him in Encore’s booklet.

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Running alongside the film’s many scenes on the beach with the destroyed ship are a
series of intriguing moments set in a tavern that achieve a real bawdy and downright drunken feel separate from Rollin’s usually more poetic touches. Keep a look out in these scenes for Louise Dhour, playing once again a musician, and popular cult figure Monica Swinn, an actress who would become one of the most resonate figures in Jess Franco’s cinema throughout the seventies. Also appearing in the film are Mireille Dargent, playing the clown character she has perfected by this point, and the devilish duo of Ben Zimet (who had appeared in Rollin’s early short Les Pay Loins) and Miletic Zivomir.

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It is the ship itself that is perhaps, outside of Coeur, the film’s most arresting character. Rollin recalled in ETC that, “there was an old shipwreck which I discovered a long time ago and I absolutely wanted to use that for my film.” The ship wasn’t easy to shoot though as he recalled, “it was really hard and dirty work to move it from one beach to the other where we did the picture” but the effort paid off as the wreckage gives the low budget film a much bigger feel than it would have had without it.

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The scenes on the beach with the ship, despite their success in the final film, gave Rollin and his crew numerous headaches during the production. This was especially true for brilliant cinematographer Jean-Jacques Renon who really struggled lighting the complicated scenes, and whose personal troubles were making him harder and harder to work with. While they would work together again, The Demoniacs sadly remains the final major collaboration between Rollin and Renon on a film, ending an era of astonishing work for both of them. The film would also mark the last time Rollin worked with composer Pierre Raph, who delivers one of his most exciting and noteworthy scores with The Demoniacs.

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Despite all of the problems facing Rollin during the production, The Demoniacs is a really winning film that stands as one of his most enduring works. Rollin mentioned in his introduction to the film in Virgins and Vampires that he wanted to make a film that was a tribute to, “the dark lyricism of the German cinema before 1933” and to my eyes he more than succeeded. Filled with allusions to Fritz Lang (Rollin has mentioned his love for MoonFleet time and time again) and other icons of early German cinema, The Demoniacs is a powerful, if slightly flawed, ode to a type of cinema that had all but been abandoned by 1974 when the film premiered in Paris.

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The Demoniacs is clearly one of the most beloved Jean Rollin productions, although in hindsight I have stepped back slightly from it as my admiration for Les Frisson des Vampires and Le Rose du Fer has grown, and two of the best pieces written on it can be found in issue 58 of Video Watchdog and Tohill and Tomb’s Immoral Tales. Scott Grantham’s excellent piece in VW successfully points out The Demoniacs connection to not only German Expressionism but also to epic Hollywood productions like Demille’s 1942 film Reap the Wild Wind. Grantham also calls The Demoniacs one of Rollin’s most “challenging films” and has less problems with the casting and look of the film than I do. His piece is typical of the kind of quality works you can always find in VW and should be sought out by fans of the film. Tohill and Tombs really love the production as well and spend as much time on it in their chapter on Rollin in Immoral Tales as any of his other films. They offer an excellent history and analysis of the picture and argue that the film's problems (the two girls, constant script rewrites) finally work in its favor. They also do a great job in showing that this film was indeed the end of an era of sorts for Rollin, whom would soon be forced to make more films under the Gentil and Xavier pseudonyms to stay financially afloat.

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Rollin himself seems proud if a little hesitant about the film on Encore’s commentary. He finally admits that he wishes he had a movie under his belt that contains, “the genius” of something like Bertrand Tavernier’s La Fille de d’Artagnan (1994) starring Sophie Marceau, although of course many of his fans would like to argue with him that he already does.

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The Demoniacs has recently been re-released in the States and Britain by Redemption DVD in what I have heard is a sharp and nice looking presentation. Encore’s 3 disc box-set (currently on sale at Xploited) is the way to go for Rollin addicts though and it includes a lovely widescreen print, the booklet, the commentary, a slide-show, Les Pay Loins and an interview with Willy Braque. Encore’s set provides a fitting home to one of Jean Rollin’s most enduring if imperfect classics.