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Step into the erotic fantasy world of Jean Rollin in this Lost Girls exclusive

The Iron Rose (Photo: Spectacular Optical)
The Iron Rose (Photo: Spectacular Optical)

Led by House Of Psychotic Women author Kier-La Janisse, over the past few years Canada’s Spectacular Optical press has done outstanding work putting personal perspectives on under-explored areas of pop-culture history in books like Kid Power! and Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia In The 1980s. Now, the company is in the midst of an Indiegogo campaign for its newest project, Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema Of Jean Rollin. Written entirely by women critics, scholars,and historians, the book re-examines the work of French filmmaker Jean Rollin, best known for his 1970s vampire films like Fascination and The Demoniacs, through a feminist lens.

Photo: Spectacular Optical

Edited by Diaboloque’s Samm Deighan, the book explores Rollin’s directorial signatures, like “overwhelmingly female protagonists, his use of horror genre and exploitation tropes, his reinterpretations of the fairy tale and fantastique, [and] the influence of crime serials, Gothic literature and the occult,” according to a press release. Funds from the Indiegogo campaign will go towards paying contributors to the book, as well as a full-color printing so you can experience Rollin’s dreamlike fantasy imagery in its full glory.

Perks for donating to the campaign range from $35 for a copy of the book itself all the way up to a three-day tour throughout France visiting locations from Rollin’s films for $1,000. A new $50 “The Dreamer” level gives access to the 2011 Rollin documentary The Stray Dreamer, and $165 makes you a “Queen Of The Vampires” with an array of Rollin books, soundtracks, and Blu-rays (eternal life not included).

The A.V. Club has an exclusive look at another perk available to donors, a mystery board game inspired by Rollin’s work. (Think Clue, but more surreal and continental.) “The artwork for the game is being created by Jessica Seamans, known for her work with Mondo and Landland,” Janisse says. “And we’ve just confirmed that the individual weapons pieces for the game are going to be sculpted by British FX artist Dan Martin, who does all the effects for Ben Wheatley’s films, was the effects supervisor on Human Centipede 2, and created the custom cameras used to film Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers. This game is going to be spectacular.” You can check out an exclusive first look at location and character illustrations from the game below.

Illustration: Jessica Seamans / Spectacular Optical
Illustration: Jessica Seamans / Spectacular Optical

We’ve also got an exclusive excerpt from Flavorwire editor Alison Nastasi’s contribution to the book, an essay about graveyard imagery in Rollin’s films. Check it out below, and then donate to the Lost Girls campaign over at IndieGoGo. You’ve only got 13 days left, so try to move slightly less languidly than a tragic immortal lounging on silken pillows, would you?


LOVE AMONG THE IRON ROSES:

The Cemetery as a Romantic Nexus in the Films of Jean Rollin

By Alison Nastasi

The Iron Rose (Photo: Spectacular Optical)

From the forthcoming Spectacular Optical book LOST GIRLS: THE PHANTASMAGORICAL CINEMA OF JEAN ROLLIN

French filmmaker Jean Rollin’s uniquely personal aesthetic draws on Gothic and Romantic perspectives about transcendence, the sublime, and the subconscious. The cemetery is one of the most stunning tableaux-like settings where Rollin confronts these dual forces of nature, his preoccupations culminating in his 1973 film La rose de fer (The Iron Rose), which takes place almost entirely in a cemetery.

Rollin contemplates the mysteries of death in the same vein as the Gothic tradition, where the human and divine are fraught with tension and rife with symbolism. His camera spins above a grave, capturing the scene below, like a clock moving faster and faster—a futile attempt to transcend time. Candles burn end to end during the couple’s lovemaking. At the same time, the filmmaker anchors his characters to the cemetery with a palpable sense of naturalism. Their shivers, moans, and the ambient sounds of the graveyard are vital to Rollin’s rich Gothic-Romantic palette.

The ancestral power of Rollin’s cemetery is also an entry point into the filmmaker’s fascination with the past. Rollin conjures his most obvious influences to bring this to life: art, poetry, and Surrealism. Like Arthur Rimbaud’s writing, created under the fractured influence of drugs and drink as a means of disorienting the reader by disintegrating language, Rollin channels the same with his elliptical narratives and unchained camerawork. In his 1817 Biographia Literaria, English writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of the progenitors of the Romantic movement, writes:

“A poet… brings the whole soul of man into activity…. He diffuses a tone, and spirit of unity, that blends, and (as it were) fuses, each into each, by that synthetic and magical power, to which we have exclusively appropriated the name of imagination. This power… reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities: of sameness, with difference.”

The Iron Rose (Photo: Spectacular Optical)

Rollin has named director Georges Franju, Luis Buñuel, and other Surrealist masters as a few of his greatest influences. “I have tried to find that atmosphere of dream, poetry and madness in many of my films,” he told Black. Just as Rollin regards French actress and muse Brigitte Lahaie a “living statue, a living painting,” so too does he treat Pascale’s character as a work of art—a statue frozen in time, resembling something like death itself.

In the 1999 episode of Eurotika! “Vampires and Virgins,” which explores Rollin’s career, Belgian actress Monica Swinn (Les démoniaques) says: “We made these films with some notion of breaking barriers.” But Rollin’s works go beyond a dalliance with the censors. La rose de fer shatters the mirror between inner and outer worlds, deliciously teetering between the mysteries of the cemetery (mortality) and the bellow of the human soul as each character comes face to face with the unknown (divinity). One distinction that’s frequently missing from examinations of Rollin’s films is the difference between terror and horror. La rose de fer demonstrates how Rollin’s use of the cemetery is life-affirming rather than nihilistic.

The Iron Rose (Photo: Spectacular Optical)

In her 1826 essay “On the Supernatural in Poetry,” English Gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe wrote: “Terror and horror are so far opposite, that the first expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them.” Rollin achieves this delicate balance and takes us beyond the everyday in his musing on life and death. There is no graphic violence in La rose de fer, only verbal confrontation and impassioned exchanges. The ambiguous ending suggests that the girl and boy will spend eternity inside the cemetery catacombs. But after locking him inside the tomb against his will, we don’t know if the sentiment expressed in the girl’s emotional speech to her lover about spending their lives together is reciprocated by the imprisoned boy—but they have now a taste for death. In the charged atmosphere of the cemetery, Rollin’s characters transcend nature and touch an otherworldly realm.


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