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FASCINATION
Blu-ray. Redemption.

FascinationThe last of Redemption’s initial batch of Jean Rollin Blu-rays is the remarkable Fascination; shot in 1979, the film sits somewhere between the surreal vampire films of earlier in the decade and the more visceral movies he would make subsequently, and it remains one of his more intriguing films.

Not, as many have suggested, a vampire film, Fascination instead studies blood fetishism. Opening up in a slaughterhouse where well-bred young ladies are encouraged to drink ox blood as a cure for anaemia (all the rage in 1905, apparently), the film then cuts to a band of ruffians who fall out over ill-gotten loot. One of them, Mark (Jean-Marie Lemaire), makes a break for it with the cash, and holds up in a seemingly deserted chateau, where he meets Elizabeth (Franca Mai) and Eva (Brigitte Lahaie), and soon finds himself caught in a weird cat-and-mouse situation, where it becomes hard to tell who is the captive and who the captor. As the girls tell him that they have friends coming after dark, Mark fails to grasp the danger he is in until it is too late…

While this film has a (slightly) more conventional narrative than many of Rollin’s previous movies, it is no less unique and intriguing. Like his best work, it seems to exist in a world of unreality, it’s characters, costumes and dialogue all one-step removed from normality. As with much of his work, the male characters in Fascination seem clueless and disposable – it’s the women that Rollin is interested in, and he’s well served with his two stars. Mai is deceptively sweet and seemingly defenceless, while Lahaie, making the leap from hardcore, is astonishing. It’s no surprise that she is arrestingly sexual perhaps, but her transformation into a dead-eyed killer is remarkable – I can’t remember many actresses who have been as chilling, and the iconic image of her, naked but for a black Grim Reaper cape and carrying a scythe is one of the most unforgettable images in cinema history – never have sex and death been so potently linked.

FascinationThere’s more blatant eroticism in this film than most of Rollin’s previous work – a lesbian scene and more upfront sexuality than found in his earlier works (which were heavy on nudity, but rarely had sex scenes) perhaps a sign of the times - Rollin was also shooting porn movies during this period. It doesn’t feel out of place though, instead actually helping with the plot and character development.

Beautiful, eerie and unsettling, Fascination is another must-see from Rollin, and this new addition also has the most interesting extras of the series. There are two extended (and silent) versions of the sex scenes, shot by Rollin in case he needed more explicit – though still softcore – footage for international markets. As an alternative, unedited view of the erotic moments they are pretty interesting, especially for Lahaie fans – interestingly, she can be seen directing co-star Lemaire on a couple of occasions! Also included is the Rollin episode of TV show Eurotika, made back when British TV would still run sex-positive documentaries – an essential primer for Rollin newcomers.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (USA)

 

 

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