Fantasia – In the world of Jean Rollin, master of fantasy

Fantasia isn’t just about vampire movies with scantily clad ladies. It’s also a documentary about the makers of many vampire movies with scantily clad ladies. More seriously, what better place than the high mass of genre cinema to pay homage to one of these masters who have remained largely in the shadows, one of these giants whose existence we only learn of once it’s too late: Jean Rollin.

Born just before the Second World War, Rollin, through his father, a theater man, but above all through his mother, closely and remotely linked to the French literary milieu, grew up in a post-war France plagued by a cultural revival. Quickly in love with cinema, here he dabbled in short films, then feature films when the New Wave came to the fore.

But what drives him is the fantastic. Hence the inclusion of this word, by the way, in the title of the documentary Orchestrator of Storms: The Fantastic World of Jean Rollin. Very quickly, he gave in to the psychedelic imagination, all with a good dose of often bittersweet romanticism.

Very quickly, he will marry eroticism, in a France for a time still plagued by censorship, and a criticism of society injected in the form of films where supernatural creatures represent who men, who their opponents. Giving resolutely to the genre film, but a genre film of its own, far from what the Italians were doing, for example, or far from what the British and the Americans would do in the 1980s. No, his genre film , he does it in an existentialist form, with this daring, even rebellious side that is not done anymore, or really anymore.

Rollin will also use, even abuse the female nude to convey his message, or simply disturb the cinephile. His films may have a deeper meaning, but we still see enough women in the simplest device to deserve a classification 18 years and over, even XXX.

For lack of money, Rollin will give in porn, in fact. But not necessarily the porn silly and boring, a kind of display of fetid flesh, but rather in porn, with a story, even a message.

And it’s a bit like that, his career: chasing money, to shoot projects that are sometimes completed in fourth gear. But the older Rollin got, the more his audience seemed to grow, notably because of the appearance of videocassettes, which facilitated the distribution of his works.

Did he start his career too early? Maybe, or maybe not. Jean Rollin resembles many other creators, those who are part ofunderground, those whose existence is generally known only to a handful of initiates. Those whose life and work we discover only once they are dead and buried.

Ultimately, it is impossible not to appreciate this well-packed two-hour documentary, with many speakers, each more interesting than the next. And what about this desire to try to discover, perhaps through a strange repertoire, in a hidden corner of the web, the works of this great man with strange visions…

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