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We must find a way to eliminate the erotic element that is imposed upon us. But it is very difficult to make fantasy films here. It is a genre which is despised. The pure fantasy film, without explicit blood and gore, is difficult to achieve successfully. I have tried, but I have failed. – Jean Rollin, 1973

The above statement appears in an interview Jean Rollin gave for the Fall 1973 issue of the magazine CINEFANTASTIQUE. Rollin’s complaint regarding French cinema in the seventies could be applicable to any decade of his career. Like Walerian Borowczyk, Rollin was obliged to compromise or even structure an entire film around sex scenes that were mandated by his financiers. Eventually, Rollin even directed pornographic films as a means of establishing financial autonomy within the film industry, but to little avail.

Fascination (1979) is one of Rollin’s best features primarily because the erotic elements compliment rather than juxtapose the narrative of the film. The synthesis is so effective that Rollin authors some of the greatest images, most erotic images of the fantastique genre. The shot of Brigitte Lahaie approaching the camera in nothing but an open black robe and wielding a scythe is legendary in the annals of film marketing.

The premise of Fascination is simple. Marc (Jean-Pierre Lemaire) is fleeing his gang after a double cross and stumbles upon an old chateau where he meets two women, Eva (Brigitte Lahaie) and Elisabeth (Franca Maï), who are awaiting the other members of their all women secret society on the night of their sabbath. The twist is that this secret society of women plan to kill Marc and drink his blood.

Fascination is a return to themes of vampirism for Rollin, even if it isn’t explicitly about vampires. The blood cult in the film is a collection of bourgeois women for whom blood drinking is a ritualistic fetish, not a necessity to live. It may be on the nose, but it’s an effective piece of commentary. It’s a recurring theme in Rollin’s films that those with wealth and power exploit and dominate those in the lower classes.

What’s effective in Fascination are the visuals. Rollin litters the film with Gothic iconography, often imbuing familiar signifiers with a more modernist erotic interpretation. Even with the extraneous scenes of intercourse, the sense of tension and atmosphere remains palpable. From start to finish, Fascination follows a strict sort of dream logic; a Gothic fever dream drenched in lust and desire.