REVIEW: Orchestrator of Storms – The Fantastique World of Jean Rollin (2022)

dir. Dima Ballin and Kat Ellinger

Idiosyncratic French director Jean Rollin receives a deep-dive retrospective in this feature-length doc. Best known for languid, dreamy horrors such as Requiem for a Vampire (1971) and Lips of Blood (1975), Rollin bridged the gap between exploitation and arthouse, faithfully pursuing a distinctly personal vision despite eternally low budgets, public indifference and critical contempt. 

While the documentary adopts a fairly straight-forward approach to its subject – working chronologically through the late director’s life story accompanied by an affectionate chorus from his collaborators and fans – it is never less than compelling. Directors Ballin and Ellinger build a persuasive case for the remarkable qualities of Rollin’s work, carefully establishing his artistic credentials and his place within the French fantastique tradition (a genre mixing sci-fi, fantasy and horror, quite distinct from the more widely-appreciated European gothic). However their enthusiasm retains clear eyes, never shying away from the sleazier or less successful moments of his long, intriguing career. 

As such Orchestrator of Storms works beautifully as both a celebration of a cult director and as a history of a lost world of 60s and 70s Euro horror. Impressively, it also stands on its own terms as an inspiring, funny, frustrating and ultimately moving portrait of doggedly resilient creativity, and a tribute to the joy and value of imagination. Whilst both fans and newcomers will obviously find much to savour here, even those who actively despise Rollin’s filmography will surely struggle to remain entirely untouched by this quietly superb examination. 

© Johnny Restall


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