Friday, 24 May 2013

Going on the Wild Side - Jean Rollin

(on thye basis of a review for The Wire, April 2012)

Various Artists
The B-music of Jean Rollin
Finders Keepers CD LP

Philippe D'Aram
Finders Keepers CD LP

Pierre Raph
Requiem for a Vampire
Finders Keepers CD LP

The 1970s were a splendid era for a certain kind of auteur cinema, not exactly in the patchy category of art house, though definitely being an art of some sort: the exploitation movie. From that the gerat moments of giallo, art horror and thriller emerged. Jean Rollin, author of an absolute cult artsy soft porn horrors mostly featuring beautiful female vampires and a lot of unashamedly bright red blood, just as much as feminine breasts and kinky gothic S&M outfits, was one of the titans of that genre. Similarly to Dario Argento (and gialli as such), Walerian Borowczyk or even John Carpenter, Rollin fearlessly realized his own private vision of the sublime, which in his case meant some tremendous rewriting of the vampire’s classic metaphysical/physical drama, caught between life and death. Also, all those directors had a taste for some best music of that era, now being rediscovered: prog rock or heavy synths aren’t anymore a sign of cheese, but rather a full-on gripping aesthetics. And however ridiculous the plot/plotlessness was in Rollin’s films, the clothes, the colors, finally, the music, were always stupendous and unforgettable. Let’s take Pierre Raph’s Requiem for a Vampire, one of three just re-released by always treasure-seeking Finder Keepers’ Andy Votel, for the first time in full.

Like Argento, who had the best curious musicians of his era by his side and was even a part of the band Goblin which provided the trademark synthetic terror to his films, Rollin had great musicians of his era by his side. he knew everybody in the Parisian underground and took prog bands like Acanthus, otherwise hidden in complete mystery (they provided the soundtrack to Le Frisson de Vampires and feature heavily on the compilatory B-Music) or musician Raph, who replaced them on Requiem. If Antonioni knew their music, he would never have taken Pink Floyd to his Zabriskie Point. The ease of Raph’s improvisations combined with the flamboyant panache, ease and sexiness of the proggy, airy sounds, have something sincere and straight-forward about them. Audibly influenced by Neu!, they also are in the same veneer as Ennio Morricone’s giallo and spaghetti western soundtrack classics. Similarly on Fascination, Philippe D’Aram’s daring synth choral masterpiece of a soundtrack, as synths became so popular as a horror movie music. Accompanied with droning guitars yield a spectacular, wide and dreamy sound, provocatively interluded with sounds of menace and bloody dialogues from the film, expressing usually final dread or going over to the wild side, which sums up the drama of a newly-bitten vampire.

Music from both soundtracks and a few more Rollin films is collected on the compilation The B-Music Of Jean Rollin. The sadomasochistic horror, the toll of passion beyond comprehension, the consummate fear and sexual liberation and the final inevitable pitiful death – all is expressed in special effects and synths, that may be typical or generic for the era, but refreshing today. B-Music proves that Rollin’s films had some of the finest free rock of the 1970s. It’s not about conscious kitsch, but a grainy, blood and flesh beauty, with meaty riffs, dreaminess and sexual mystique – a letter from a lost era that eclipses any notion of irony.