I had the great pleasure to contribute to the unprecedented documentary on Jean Rollin directed by Kat Ellinger and Dima Ballin, which will premiere at the Fantasia Festival on Saturday 16th July.
Here’s the Fantasia Festival’s description of the film by Mitch Davis:
Has there been a genre artist more fundamentally misunderstood and inappropriately discussed than Jean Rollin? He remains one of genre cinema’s most singular poets, a theatrical fantasist, interpreter of dreams, orchestrator of storms. His recurring use of twin or paired protagonists and surrealistic interpretations of vampirism, with tones that were often in the midnight space between gothic literature and fairy tale, his sense of humour and intellectual musings, his sumptuous visual ideas, coming together to make inspired works of genre art that ran against nearly all traditions of the times they were made in. Always produced on budgets lower than his ideas called for, pushed through with a resourceful ingenuity that can be felt in the finished films, lending them further layers of individuality and heart. Yet these qualities led many to dismiss his work without ever actually engaging with it, with proper distribution outside of France proving elusive for many of his films (though here in Quebec, most opened theatrically and had mass VHS releases in the early video boom). Rollin has always had a small and dedicated cult following – in the final years of his life, he was celebrated at a number of festivals and here at Fantasia, he was the recipient of our 2007 lifetime achievement award. Most of his works are now available on blu-ray across the world, yet he continues to remain a secret handshake of cinephelia in need of broader critical reassessment.
Made in close collaboration with the filmmaker’s surviving family, Kat Ellinger and Dima Ballin’s years-in-the-making documentary tells Rollin’s story in a way we’ve not seen before. Beginning with his childhood raised by a mother who was close friends with Cocteau, Bataille and Blanchot and a father who directed avant-garde theatre (some of the photos shown from this period are worth the price of admission alone), ORCHESTRATOR OF STORMS explores Rollin’s films through the context of his life and obsessions, his connection to French surrealists and poetry, his involvement with the ‘60s anarchist scene in France, bringing a deeper dimension to the ways his work can be understood. With the perspectives of his friends and collaborators, including Brigitte Lahaie and Françoise Pascal, and a range of cinema and cultural historians, including Howard Berger and Fantasia’s 2022 Canadian Trailblazer Kier-La Janisse, who published lost girls: the phantasmagorical cinema of Jean Rollin (2017), and also co-executive produced. Deeply moving and downright revelatory, ORCHESTRATOR OF STORMS is a bona fide miracle.