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Arrow Films releases a thoughtful, rich story that will hopefully shine a light on the important works and influence of Jean Rollin.

Orchestrator of Storms Jean Rollin

Jean Rollin was a director of films and writer of novels within the Fantastique genre.

His filmed work was often shot against constantly shifting budgets, and his exposure to the arts through theatre and his mother gave him a unique voice. This meant that his films were not always positively received.

Arrow Films, with the release of this documentary on his life and works, seeks to portray him in a new light — making a solid case for why Rollin’s work is due recognition and should be reappraised by a wider audience.

Orchestrator of Storms: The Fantastique World Of Jean Rollin arrives just as it appears a groundswell of interest is happening for Jean Rollin’s films, as well as for some of the lesser-known Eurocine figures that were producing and releasing titles at this time.

I confess to personally knowing little about Rollins before watching this incredible documentary.

His early life was shaped through exposure to the leading French literary voices and watching weekly serials in much the same way as George Lucas. This, twinned with his interest in surrealism and the fantastic, formed his voice which would later appear on the screen. These influences would always struggle against the budget constraints he faced with each film.

Because of this, each of his films is unique to him.

During his first phase, in the 60s and 70s, he released his Gothic Vampire films which were unlike those released by his peers in this early Euro-Horror scene.

He also believed in subverting certain themes so they reflected moods prevailing in France at those times.

This subversion would lead to cinemagoers not accepting or understanding what they had seen. After all, it wasn’t in the Hammer style.

He also became a director of erotica at this time in order to finance his films, and he garnered praise for how he portrayed females within these. In this period, he mixed his output between the two genres and, in some cases, directed hybrids of both.

Regardless of genre or budget, Rollin always tried to put his unique mark on whatever film he directed.

For example, his Grapes of Death was a non-standard Zombie film that took in some of the themes established by Romero but on a far smaller budget. He gave us something unique by giving his zombies emotion and the knowledge that what they were doing was wrong even though they were powerless to stop it.

He also stepped in as a last-minute replacement for Jess Franco on Zombie Lake, and this was again met with disdain by critics and the public alike.

The 80s proved harder for him as he fought the constant import of American slashers that were proving popular at the box office and on home video. The slasher boom was not one he could lend himself to, as he had no interest in it or filming it.

But he began to gain some form of recognition as horror publications like Fangoria started to run features on him and his work.

The gap in years meant audiences had caught up with him and could appreciate what was being played on screen.

It is probably for the best that you, like me, go into this documentary blissfully unaware of Rollin so you get the proper introduction to what shaped him and ultimately informed how he would direct his films.

Directors Dima Ballin & Kat Ellinger have provided his story, without bombast, charting it from childhood to its untimely end. Orchestrator of Storms wants you to invest your time, and it richly rewards you for doing so.

There is the standard narration, but this doesn’t take over. It allows the talking heads to take center stage, all of whom have worked with Rollin or have been his muse at key points in his career. They communicate just how important he was as a giant of French cinema.

The spoken word transcriptions are taken directly from his own quotes, and these brief passages give you a flavor of who Rollin was and how that affected his style of direction. In these, you get a better understanding of the man.

The brief extracts presented here, coupled with the narration, show his intent was always to find the shot that best identified him, and they look amazing.

Rollin’s films aren’t for everyone, but this thoughtful documentary is a must-watch for anyone who wants to look beyond the obvious naked flesh and delve deep into one of the most underrated artists that France has ever produced.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 5
Orchestrator of Storms: The Fantastique World Of Jean Rollin is available February 14 in the US, Canada, UK, and Ireland, exclusive on Arrow Video’s streaming platform at arrow-player.com. 

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