Title: Fascination (1979)
Director: Jean Rollin
Cast: Franca Mai, Brigitte Lahaie, Jean Marie Lemaire, Fanny Magier
I’m quickly learning that watching a Jean Rollin picture is a special kind of experience. He made many films, of course not all of them are good, but the ones that are special are sultry, sensual, artful experiences. These are films in which people talk in whispers and the wind blows in the middle of the night; of empty chateaus’ with lonely lovers expecting death to come visit them in the middle of the night. Oh Rollin, where the hell have you been all my life? I love these freaking movies!
In Fascination we first meet Mark, a thief who has just stolen a bounty of golden coins. He decides to ditch the thieves that helped him pull of the heist and runs off with the gold. While on the run he comes upon an apparently empty castle where he decides to hide until the night comes, so he can later escape under the cover of the night. Problem is this chateau is not empty, he soon realizes that it is inhabited by two women: Eva and Elisabeth. To him they are easy prey, lonely women in an empty castle, Mark seems to think things are looking up for him, that this night might turn up better then expected; but are these women as innocent as they seem? Is there something more to these women than meets the eye?
It’s easy to say that Rollin’s films are exploitative and trashy, but I honestlyI don’t see them that way. Yeah they got nudity in them, and in Fascination’s case there’s lots of it, but it’s not done in bad taste in my opinion. This is a very sensual film, and while the film does have ample nudity, the female form is displayed in a very beautiful way, never in a disrespectful or demeaning matter. The last time I saw a truly sensual and beautiful love scene between two lesbian characters was in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001). In that film Naomi Watts and Laura Harring really go down on each other. That was a steamy scene that was very erotic, yet there was emotion and beauty to it, in my opinion it didn’t feel exploitative. There’s a similar scene on Fascination where the two female vampire lovers go at each other that is a heavy contender for hottest lesbian sex scene on film and again, it’s a beautiful scene and I’m not just saying that because I’m a guy, well maybe a little, but you know what I mean, it’s not trashy or cheap, you feel there’s genuine affection between these two characters.
Aesthetically speaking, the shots Rollin chose, the compositions he made with the camera, and the localizations where Rollin chose to shoot this film all add up to a really beautiful looking film. I love it when a horror film is artful and beautiful, it kind of elevates the horror film, it turns it more than just a film that’s trying to be shocking or scary, this in my opinion is what Rollin does with his films. Take for instance the beautiful chateau he chose to shoot Fascination in…just otherworldly in a way. It is surrounded by a moat, and there’s a mist all around it, dead trees…but it’s all naturally that way, it’s not a set which is something I love about Rollin’s films, he never really used sets much, probably due to budget limitations, but it all works in the films favor in the end. The castle has this bridge which Rollin uses extensively all throughout the film, it looks great, it becomes a pivotal part of the film. I mean, European filmmakers end up making their films in such beautiful locations that you can’t find anywhere else, in that way, they are fortunate. But then there’s the small visual touches Rollin gives the film, like having the vampire girls walking around in these dresses that undulate when the wind hits them; or shooting in the middle of a dreary, cold day. So with Fascination you can expect a film that deals with horror elements, but portrayed in a beautiful, seductive and atmospheric way.
In terms of the story, well, it’s simple in nature, but it has this aura of suspense to it. We are intrigued all throughout. Rollin really turned this one into an exercise in suspense. We want to know what’s going to happen, what is this ominous event that is going to take place? I think this is probably why the film is called Fascination. Of course it could also have something to do with the fascination the vampires in the film feel for blood. This film isn’t as gory as The Living Dead Girl (1982) was and the ending doesn't pack as much of a wallop as The Living Dead Girls ending does, but it still manages to augment the vampires fascination and lust for blood. It feels to me that what Rollin did with The Living Dead Girl was take the ideas he played with in Fascination and took them a bit further, The Living Dead Girl feels a bit more realized in a sense, edgier, bloodier. But don't worry my friends, blood and the color red are always present in one form or another. The vampire angle is kind of subtle, but in the end it’s unmistakably a vampire film and a damn good one. I’m beginning to get fascinated by Rollin’s artful horror films, they mix fright with sensuality, plus, they are drenched with atmosphere, I’m really looking forward to exploring more of his oeuvre!
Rating: 4 out of 5