25.9.15

Fascination

Jean Rollin made low-budget exploitation films invariably featuring alluring female vampires writhing their way into the lives of unsuspecting male protagonists. Sounds like trash, but they are sought after, partly because Rollin imbibed the methodology of the surrealists and did care quite a bit about the images he was putting together. Fascination opens on a gramophone on a stone bridge, the shot slowly moving out to show two women dancing alongside it. That visual was what sparked the idea for the film, and Rollin liked it so much he held the shot for the whole of the opening credits, to the point where it becomes a bit tedious. It gets better from there though. Some of his long takes build mood marvelously well – most notably the shot revealing the coven of bloodthirsty mademoiselles to the cocksure thief Mark, fanning out like bat wings behind their leader Helen.

Mark is a lovable rascal who refuses to be blindsided or intimidated by the mysterious aristocratic ladies he falls in with. Helen's uppity attitude riles him up – he always wants to be in control. The prototypical link between sex and death inherent in the vampire myth is ever-present in the film. Fascination, bewitchment, is a mortal threat. But this is true also for the vampires themselves. One of them, Elizabeth, falls in love with Mark, and kills her lover Eva to be with him. But the aura of Helen draws her back to the coven. Elizabeth's motives are shambolic, and it's probably best not to try too hard to reconcile them. Throughout, Rollin is more interested in the way these images of beautiful, domineering women can entrap even the most free-spirited soul.

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