“Orchestrator of Storms” relates the life and career of the late French director Jean Rollin. While Rollin was a prolific writer, his supreme love was the production of films, almost exclusively in the “le cinema fantastique” genre. As such, his low budget productions featured a great deal of female nudity, vampirism, graphic violence, sex and sadism.
One would think that Rollin – the son of a father who was an actor/theater director and a mother who as an artist’s model – had access to many of the notables of pre- and post-WWII society. In this his upbringing bore some similarities to that of American “infant terrible” Orson Welles. Unlike Welles, however, he didn’t have the outsize personality and “chutzpah” that created such a name for the boy genius.
Long a lover of American film serials and comic books, Rollin began his film career in the late 1950s. Their influence is evident in his choice of genre: fantasized visions of naked, although often gauzily draped women who fall victim to handsome, stylized vampires – of both sexes. After all, he was French.
Many of his attempts at making films were thwarted by his failure to raise enough money, and even when he did complete a feature project, the lack of commercial return would make fundraising for the following project even more difficult. Further, while he was producing, writing, and directing films in the same surreal genre as his contemporaries – Roger Vadim, Georges Franju, José Bénazéraf, and Alain Robbe-Grillet – he never really gained acceptance within his fellows. In that manner, his career also paralleled an aspect of Welles’ career.
Despite his problems with financial backers, his need to produce films on a shoestring, and his exclusion from the mainstream of French film-making, he did produce an impressive oeuvre’ of some 19 films, most of which he both wrote and directed. This compares to 15 features written and directed by Welles.
Sadly, even considering the freer morality of his environment, Rollin dipped again and again into pornographic film. This was partly by inclination, but mostly because they could be commercially successful and provide the money for his other projects. Again comparing this to Welles; he was also chronically short of production money, but chose to act in other people’s films, thus obtaining the money for his own productions.
Late in life, Rollin developed a popularity he never had in France. His films were discovered by Americans, and he became a minor celebrity, appearing at film festivals across the country. In this, another comparison can be made: Jerry Lewis’ films were considered silly slapstick (but profitable) in the US, while he was lauded as an auteur in France.
All the above and much more is covered in this documentary of the director, who died in 2010. Numerous movie clips, stills, and other material are combined with extensive interviews of Rollin’s supporters, friends, and others to give us a portrait of this fascinating man who loved to make movies. Directors Dima Ballin and Kat Ellinger draw out their interviewees to add depth to that portrait and describe the tribulations he went through to realize his artistic vision.
“Orchestrator of Storms” is in French with subtitles, and English. The clips feature significant nudity.
Directors: Dima Ballin, Kat Ellinger
Writers: Dima Ballin, Kat Ellinger
Producers: Dima Ballin, Kat Ellinger
Cinematographers: Cedric Fontana, Ray C. Loyd, Jonathan Zaurin
Music: Tornado Victory
Interviewees: Howard S. Berger, Véronique Djaouti, David Hinds, Brigette Lahale, Kier-La Janisse, Madeleine Le Despencer, Françoise Pascal and Jeremy Richey
Runtime: One hour, 52 minutes
Availability: VOD, 2/14/2023
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