Monday, October 20, 2014

Fascination (1979)

Euro horror directors of the 70s have a reputation for elevating style over substance.  The most famous offender is Argento, of course, but even his love of visuals at the expense of plot can't match Jean Rollin.  Over the course of a 52(!)-film career, Rollin established a style that forsakes action for beauty, especially nude female beauty.  Put women in period costumes, take certain parts of them out of costume, splash a little blood around, and put them on the back of Eeyore the depressed donkey (because it takes forever to get anywhere in these films), and you've got an inkling of the Rollin formula.

So Fascination.  We open with apparently incongruous shots of slaughtered animals and women in Jane Austen attire, then swiftly move to the aftermath of a robbery of gold coins.  The robbery was planned by these gentlemen, which must have been super-shameful for the victims.  One of them opts to take the coins himself and takes along a hostage.  The bilked thieves pursue.

Whoa, this is a whole lotta plot for a Jean Rollin movie!  Don't worry, the tits flop out soon enough.

Will do!  The thieving thief escapes to a castle surrounded by a moat.  There he meets two women who very slowly reveal to him that they're expecting guests tonight.  From there, we get a languid unwinding into horror-movie territory by way of diaphanous gowns and slow, sexy death.

Fascination feels drugged, not least of all because of the exceedingly plodding camera movements and editing.  It takes the gentleman below forever to die and we watch as time drags on.  That's indicative of everything in the movie and, if you can't the slowest burn ever committed to film, this isn't the film for you.

Snail-paced pace, minimal plot, this does sound great!  But the rewards you earn for your investment are these rich visuals.  Rollin was a master at utilizing light and space in a frame to create very striking images.  Art critics agree that this semi-naked woman with a scythe is basically better than everything M.C. Escher ever did.

So this might be a good choice for viewers who gravitate toward the artsier side of horror, but it will also please enthusiasts of erotic horror.  Rollin cast France's best betties for his evil women's book club and, though this doesn't include tons of bed time, the film is permeated with a sensual atmosphere.  

I tend to enjoy visually-stunning films, even when they don't have a surfeit of plot going on, so I might like this more than most.  It's not amazing or anything that I'll probably ever revisit, but it had enough charms for one go-round.


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