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Monday, September 28, 2009

Out of Sight (Through October At Least)

Since I started Moon in the Gutter, nearly three years ago, I have not let a week go by without at least a few postings. It's been, and continues to be, a wonderful experience but I have to admit that I have a severe case of Internet Burnout. In order to sort some sections of my life out I have recently moved back to the one place in the world that I feel at home at, and I am experiencing a wave of happiness and relief that I haven't felt in a couple of years. This has been a rough year for me physically, spiritually and mentally and right now all I want to do is take a step back and breathe again. So, for the first time in its existence I am going to be taking a break from Moon in the Gutter (or any other online activity) for probably a month or so. This is not a goodbye as I will return (perhaps even sooner than November if I can get mentally and physically refueled) but for right now I just can't sit here and stare at this screen anymore. I hope the folks who have stuck with me will continue to do so through this little break, and again I can't express how much I appreciate the comments and support. The fact that some of my favorite writers, actors and directors have stopped by here and read something I have written still fills me with feelings of happiness and gratitude that I can't even express.
So, again, this is not a goodbye. Moon in the Gutter will return probably around the beginning of November, or maybe late October, with a renewed sense of self and with probably more of an emphasis on quality over quantity. Thanks to all my friends I have made through this site, and I will be back soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Behind the Scenes With My Favorite Actors: Pierre Clémenti in Partner

"This is the dark room, or at least that's what I call it."

Behind the Scenes of The Living Dead Girl

These are just a small sampling of the many behind the scenes shots that can be found on Encore's terrific box-set of The Living Dead Girl.

Francoise Blanchard Today

Three of the most splendid extras on Encore's Box-Set of The Living Dead Girl involve the wonderful Francoise Blanchard discussing the film. I thought those who might not already have the set might enjoy getting a look at the still lovely Blanchard today. A full article on her is coming soon.

The Living Dead Girl: Alternate Scenes

Encore's excellent special edition box-set of The Living Dead Girl offers a couple of non-essential deleted scenes that will be of great interest to fans of the film. Here are a some stills from those brief moments that landed on the cutting room floor back in 1981.

Jean Rollin Posters: La morte vivante (The Living Dead Girl)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Marquee Memories: Taxi Driver (1976)

That Summer of ’76 had been the loneliest you had ever known. The months dragged along, and the days just got hotter and hotter, as you drifted from one theater to another searching...searching for the ghost of the girl who had overdosed in your bed earlier in the spring. Not able to find her, you mostly found yourself alone in scuzzy adult theaters during the day, because you got some odd comfort from being surrounded by all those other lonely men.

You occasionally made it into the night, and the first time you saw him was when he took you to a double bill of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Return of the Dragon. You knew his name was Travis cause you could see it on his taxi license in front of you, but you two barely exchanged a word as he drove you to the theater. You recognized him though as he was one of those other lonely men who haunted those films during the day. You almost mentioned the coincidence to him but, before you could, you were already on the street watching his cab drive away.

You saw him throughout the summer, as the days grew even longer and more painful. You had taken to popping as many pain pills as you could afford to buy on the street, and one night in a daze you almost stepped out in front of his taxi after seeing a Swedish import called Anita. Gone to the point of being out, you made your way hazily into the heat drenched night.

By the mid part of the summer you had mostly stopped going to the adult shows, as the faces of the men who sat close seemed to look more and more like yours. Not so surprisingly it was across the street from one of those porno houses where you saw Travis again, going in and quickly coming out with the most beautiful woman you had ever seen. You could see they were fighting as you made your way across the street towards them, away from the double shot of Bucktown and The Eiger Sanction you had just seen. As the beautiful blonde rushed away in a cab, Travis briefly glanced at you, with some recognition, but before you could say anything he was gone again into the sweat-soaked streets of the New York night.

You didn’t see Travis again for a couple of months but you had read about him. Ironically his meltdown, no matter how heroic the papers made it out to be, helped set you back on a better track. You were surprised to see him one last time when he picked you up again to take you to another downtown movie. The back of the cab smelled like sweet perfume and, at one point, you thought he grinned at you in his rearview mirror, but you decided that it was just your new found sobriety playing a trick on you.

You elected to skip a last stand at the porn house you both used to visit, and instead you had him stop at a place showing Rudy Ray Moore’s Dolemite. In need of a good laugh you felt like it was the perfect choice for the evening, which of course it was. Hopping out of the cab to pay, you were shocked when Travis reset the meter and said, “It’s on me brother, it’s on me.” Not having even a moment to thank him, you watched his cab drive down the street into the city. You stood and watched it until it was just two small red dots in the distance melting into yellow. You nodded silently to yourself, as you realized you would never see him again.

Behind the Scenes With My Favorite Actors: Theresa Russell in Bad Timing

"I'm not ambitious, not an artist, not a poet, not a revolutionary."

***These stills are a small sampling of the hundreds found on Criterion's tremendous special edition of this film.***

An Interview at Out 1

James Hansen has posted a terrific interview with award winning documentary filmmaker Stewart Copeland over at Out 1 that I wanted to invite everyone to check out. Here is the link and great job James on Out 1's first ever Q&A.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Cinema of Jean Rollin: Les Paumees Du Petit Matin (The Escapees)

Since its failure to get a proper theatrical release in 1981, Les Paumees Du Petit Matin (The Escapees) has been one of the hardest of all of Jean Rollin’s films to see. The film finally got granted a DVD release earlier this year (courtesy of Redemption) and, while it is quite a change of pace for the iconic director, fans will find that its pleasures for the most part outweigh its faults.

Shot just after the undervalued Night of the Hunted (1980), The Escapees again has Rollin focusing on two young women on the run. It is a subject that has occupied many of his films but, unlike say Requiem for a Vampire, there is almost nothing supernatural about The Escapees. It stands as the most realistic work from Rollin, a director almost always associated with the Fantastique.

Focusing on the developing friendship between two young girls who have just escaped from a mental institution, The Escapees catches Rollin at an odd period in his career. Stylistically as far away from his early dazzling Jean-Jacques Renon lighted works as possible, The Escapees is a cold and somber film that for at least the first hour works as Jean Rollin’s most straight ahead dramatic production.

The film had its genesis when Rollin’s producers asked him if he would again be willing to step away from the supernatural genre and attempt a more mainstream thriller. Signing up a professional but incompatible screenwriter, Rollin recalled in 1997’s essential Virgins and Vampires that the script handed to him was, “an incredible mess” filled with “clichés and platitudes of melodrama”. Recalling that he essentially worked with “two scripts in hand” Rollin began filming The Escapees on a typically minuscule budget just after Night of the Hunted wrapped in 1980.

Problems with the script are indeed more than evident on The Escapees. It is one of Rollin’s most episodic productions and it bounds along with seemingly no real sense of plot in mind. A troubling work, The Escapees succeeds for its first hour due to Rollin’s unmistakable visual qualities, and fans will delight in picking out quick references to the director's previous work. The film finally does run out of steam in its final forty minutes, and it ultimately feels like a rough sketch of something that might have turned out to be one of the director’s finest and most distinctive works.

Rollin himself called the The Escapees a “bit of a disaster” in Virgins and Vampires, but he noted, “certain scenes emerged” from the wreckage. He’s correct, as there is an undeniably hypnotic and haunting quality about the film that is unique to Rollin’s work. No one essays the sense of being lost and traveling to nowhere better than Rollin, and novice actors Laurence Dubas and Christiane Coppe turn in effective, if slightly naïve, performances as the two troubled young girls destined for doom. An odd scene in a makeshift traveling fair is a particular showstopper as well and stands as one of the strangest sections of film Rollin ever shot.

Dubas and Coppe are joined mostly by a cast of inexperienced actors Rollin would not use again. Exceptions are singer Louise Dhour (instantly identifiable from many of Rollins greatest films), constant collaborator in front of and behind the camera Nathalie Perrey, Rollin himself, and legendary Brigitte Lahaie, who is all but wasted in what basically amounts to a lengthy cameo in the film’s final botched act.

The Escapees benefits greatly from a fine if spare piano based score from frequent Rollin composer Philippe D’Aram, and Claude Becognee’s calculated and chilly photography gives the film a fitting if almost overly clinical look at times. Despite some fine work from many on the film, The Escapees remains a frustratingly inconsistent picture. Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs would go so far as to call it a schizophrenic work in their wonderful Immoral Tales, but they would also note that "the beginning and end are pure Rollin" and "what is good in (The Escapees) is very good."

Redemptions DVD of Rollin’s hardest to find major film is a welcome if slightly mixed bag. Presented in a non-anaphoric 1.66 print featuring colors that are stable, if a little less vibrant than one would hope, and a stereo sound mix that suffers from a slight distorted inconsistency, this is still the best that The Escapees has ever looked and Redemption should be applauded for finally delivering it. Extras included a handful of trailers, a short still gallery and a terrific 30 minute interview with Rollin conducted in December of 08 that would alone make the disc worth purchasing. Filmed in his apartment and walking around Paris, the aging but still sharp Rollin is clearly having a wonderful time recalling his career and The Escapees to interviewer Rebecca Johnson. The director still has mixed feelings on the film, but time has taken away some of his harsher criticisms and he seems to look upon it now as more of a noble misfire than anything else.

The Escapees stands with neither the best nor the worst in Jean Rollin’s iconic filmography. A few stylistic nods to previous works aside though, it is quite different from anything else he shot before or since. The Escapees remains quite a welcome and essential purchase for fans of one of France’s most maverick filmmakers.

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BLOG CREATED, EDITED and WRITTEN BY JEREMY RICHEY: Began in DEC 2006. The written content of all posts (excepting quotes from reviews, books, other publications) COPYRIGHT JEREMY RICHEY.