Monday, July 2, 2012

115. THE TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES (LES DEUX ORPHELINES VAMPIRES, 1995)

Jean Rollin once described this film, based on his own 1993 novel, as "certainly my most accomplished and professional film." It's not, but his assessment is forgivable if we consider that he made the film when kidney failure had forced him onto dialysis, and that he made it believing it would be his last film. After a couple of viewings, it does improve somewhat on its shaky first impression and, unlike some of Rollin's other titles, which can be noticeably bruised by production interference/inadequacy, it all flows with uncommon smoothness and authoritative signature as if from the same pen. This in itself must have felt to Rollin like a great and long postponed gift.

Inspired by characters and episodes from the 1875 French Revolution romance LES DEUX ORPHELINES by Adolphe d'Ennery and Eugène Cormon (previously filmed by D.W. Griffith, Maurice Tourneur, Riccardo Freda and others), it's the sweet and delicate story of two blind foundlings of unknown origin (Isabelle Teboul and Alexandra Pic, pictured), raised as sisters in an orphanage run by nuns (one of them played by the wonderful Natalie Perrey, who also edited), who have the ability to "see blue" by night and use that time of vision, when the rest of the world cannot see, to run riot through their own shared fantasy land. As with Bret Easton Ellis' novel AMERICAN PSYCHO, and the Mary Lambert film based on it, one could make the argument that all the horrible things that happen take place only in the girls' own romantic and hyperactive imaginations; whether or not this was the intention, the film works better from this tricky perspective, because this is not a horror film about feral menace, but about magic and legend and the importance of never losing your ability to suspend disbelief. The two girls are wonderful, and one wishes Rollin had lived to treat them and us to further adventures; he lived to write five novellas about them in all, all of which were collected together under this French title in 2001.

Viewed via the Media Blasters/Shriek Show DVD. Forthcoming on DVD and Blu-ray later this year from Redemption/Kino Lorber, featuring extended liner notes by Yours Truly.

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