Sunday, 21 June 2015

Lips of Blood [Levres de Sang] (1975, Jean Rollin)

As a youth, when i wasn't weeping in butcher's shops, i was watching horror movies and reading books about horror movies.  One such salutary tome was David Pirie's The Vampire Cinema, which expanded my knowledge of the bloodsucker genre beyond the confines of Hammer and Universal, and introduced me to the works of Jean Rollin.

French poet and filmic auteur Jean Rollin spent a lot of the late 1960s and early 1970s churning out films containing lots of sexy lady vampires, for which the world is grateful.  His opus of this subgenre is in my opinion 1975's Lips of Blood, which honed the elements of earlier efforts like Requiem for a Vampire and Shiver of the Vampires and crafted a masterpiece of a sort - a film that can be bluntly described as having a lot of beautiful and elegant French actresses wandering around pretty much naked and wearing vampire fangs, but can also be explored on a deeper level.
 The story begins with Frederic (Jean-Loup Philippe) attending a swanky Parisienne party, where he sees a poster displaying a photograph of a ruined castle and coastline that trigger long-forgotten memories deep within him. "Those ruins, that landscape - they're like a part of my childhood" he says as this wall-mounted fiche sends him fishing in his subconscious and coming up with a bad case of deja vu.  Frederic has repressed a lot of the memories of his childhood, and the earliest thing he can recall is this ruined castle, and an encounter there when he was twelve years old with an alluring young girl dressed all in white (Annie Belle).
The only clue as to the location of this place from his youth is to be found from the photographer who made the poster, who Frederic tracks down to her studio at the convenient time (for the director / scriptwriter and we the viewer) that a photoshoot is taking place involving a voluptuous strawberry blonde model posing naked apart from a pair of thigh length leather boots.  Cheers, Jean - but you try explaining to your mother who's just happened to walk in when the image on screen is said lady running her hands sensuously down her body and then between her legs that you're actually watching an artfully constructed film that's almost Proustian in its exploration of the power of memory.  No, i hardly believed me, either.
Frederic's quest to find his lost childhood and the vampire girl of his dreams leads him to a Parisian crypt, wherein he clumsily knocks over the cross in the doorway that has contained the vault's denizens: four vampire vixens in diaphanous dresses that leave precisely nothing to the imagination.  These undead temptresses are unleashed upon the world, with all of their their alluring lure of enjoying le petit mort in Death's embrace.
Eventually - after much danger, death and destruction - Frederic finally locates Sauveterre Castle and returns to the place of his beginnings to find the answer within, as The Boo Radleys told us all to do back in 1995. "You had to remember me, before i could appear to you" says Jennifer, the girl from his childhood and twenty years of dreaming, as she appears exactly the way he remembers her from two decades before.
A wonderful film, dripping in atmosphere and full of emotional intensity and complex ideas about memory, existence, death and longing.  And sexy vampire girls, yes.

Recommended Rollin.  Rollin', rollin', rollin'.






2 comments:

  1. On the plus side, it looks a lot less boring than À la recherche du temps perdu.

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  2. I don't think there's any missing bonus footage where Frederic spends twenty minutes reminiscing about dipping a Madeleine into a cup of tea. I'm sure i have the uncut version.

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