Jean Michel Rollin Roth Le Gentil – better known simply as Jean Rollin – was a filmmaker whose works never enjoyed great success with the general public, but whose influence was considerable. Active from 1968 to 2009, he worked mostly in the horror genre, always a good way to find himself sidelined by critics, and became even more of an outcast when he resorted to making pornography for earn a living. This documentary by Dima Ballin and Kat Ellinger, screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival where Rollin won a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, sets out to reevaluate his work and tell his story.
Born in the small French town of Neuilly-sur-Seine (since renamed Hauts-de-Seine), Rollin might have been perfectly placed to ride the country’s New Wave if not for his outside interests. (He would be much more successful in Quebec, where Fantasia is based.) Orchestrator details how he grew up with a single mother, Denise Rollin, whom he adored, and how some of his interests were first inspired by a small friend she had when he was a toddler, a certain Georges Bataille. Herself an influential figure in the intellectual art scene of the time, she also socialized with Jean Cocteau, Maurice Blanchot and various Left Bank surrealists, giving her creative son a rich and eclectic set of ideas to draw from. . Although the film doesn’t emphasize this, it may also have ill-prepared him for the cruelty and stupidity he would encounter around the world, where his sensitivity made him vulnerable.
This vulnerability was not just emotional. The documentary then delves into the violent reaction to the premiere of his first film, Le Viol Du Vampir, in Cannes, during which spectators literally tore up the seats and threw them on the screen, Rollin having to flee for his own security. . This is set against the backdrop of the waves of unrest that were sweeping through French society at the time, but nonetheless, it’s fair to say that the film struck a chord, and while these were the most dramatic issues of Rollin to connect with the public, they would not be the last.
Benefiting greatly from his studious approach to contextualization (particularly important for non-French audiences), the documentary continues to transport us, in a linear fashion, through the highs and lows of Rollin’s career. Little attention is given to pornography, as it is more its vision than its technique that interests Ballin and Ellinger. The focus is on funding and production issues, which clearly positions him as an outsider who has struggled to fully articulate his vision. , and while his accomplishments are celebrated, a question mark remains as to whether or not they really talked about the sum of his talents.
In light of the film’s intellectual approach, readers can laugh at some titles, which make a certain impression as they pile up: The Nude Vampire; Sex and the Vampire; Suck me, vampire; et al. Rollin was always caught between the desire to create art and the need to attract audiences, with those drawn to titles often being disappointed, which made his situation worse. His interest in gothic and nudity placed him outside the sphere of what was considered suitable material for serious art. Contributors like Howard Berger and Kier-La Janisse succeed here in challenging this exclusion and articulating the potential that exists in these areas, while the latter also delivers an amusing anecdote about her first encounter with him.
Although there is a melancholy aspect, Orchestrator Of Storms explores who Rollin was as a person with warmth and wit, and shares his enthusiasm for, as it is phrased here, “beauty in the grotesque, the moody and the opulent”. It is a convincing portrait of a life dedicated to cinema. celebrate the urge to create art even in the absence of reward, and that goes some way to giving Rollin the status he deserved.
Reviewed on: Jul 30, 2022