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Fascination (Kino/Redemption Blu-ray Review)
on 18 February 2012
In the middle of rural France there's a castle where two attractive females - Eva and Elisabeth -waste away their days, waiting for some initially unspecified event. Elsewhere a group of bandits have robbed some poor sod carrying a fortune in gold and are about to make off with it when an argument splits their group and Marc makes off with the bag having betrayed his fellow criminals. After a struggle with his hostage he is located in the woodland by the other thieves and is forced to take refuge in the aforementioned castle, where he meets the two girls. Threatening them with his, er, gun the women appear to be distinctly unperturbed by his aggressive attitude towards them. Meanwhile the other bandits are keeping a safe distance from the castle effectively preventing Marc from leaving while waiting for their chance to launch an attack. It becomes apparent that Eva and Elisabeth are awaiting the arrival of a posse of bourgeois females in the middle of the night for some sort of ritualistic meeting. Unable to leave due to the gun-toting bandits outside and now unwilling to leave anyway due to a notable degree of sexual enticement from Eva, Marc is destined to be swept up in the strange activities that are about to take place in the castle... The most suitable approach to Rollin's work is to forget about cinematic convention, remove expectation of complete verisimilitude, and sit back to witness the strange events of a place that surely can't exist. Fascination is actually a better starting point than many of his other films and one of his best all round.
Following a history of releases on VHS and DVD by Redemption, reasonable at the time but not particularly holding up nowadays in the hi-def era, Stateside company Kino have teamed with Redemption to thankfully remaster this (along with several other of the director's movies) in high definition - image quality jumps significantly on the Blu-ray, with strengthened colour schemes and wonderfully naturalistic detail without being excessively sharp; indeed, on occasions there is an authentic haziness during certain sequences. Running at 24 frames per second the accurately framed (1.66:1) full HD picture, often an immersive joy to behold, is accompanied again by original language French (uncompressed two channel mono) with clear English subtitles as an option (no English language audio track is present). Also present are two highly desirable softcore outtakes (with Lahaie) totalling around fifteen minutes and apparently shot if the film was required for export to more liberal territories, plus a twenty five minute documentary about Rollin that I originally saw broadcast on British TV surprisingly. Finishing off this awesome package are the trailers to the five films initially released under Kino's Rollin series and a very attractive booklet (unfortunately the same as the one included with the other discs, but welcome nonetheless). With this Blu-ray Disc, Jean Rollin's work looks and feels better than ever - this is the way this material was meant to be experienced, and is easier to appreciate with the respectful job that Kino have done. If you're a Rollin fan, get this captivating film on Blu-ray immediately; if you're not, consider opening your mind and putting your toe in the inviting waters - you may find yourself jumping in completely!
Paul (The Grim Cellar)