Utterly captivating, Orchestrator of Storms takes you on a journey through the life and career of filmmaker Jean Rollins. Dima Ballin and Kat Ellinger have created an honest and loving tribute to the underappreciated director that will have you searching for some of his work to watch.
Deeply misunderstood and widely misrepresented, during his decades-long career as a film director (1958-2009). Rollin’s work received absolutely no recognition in his native country of France and was utterly unknown anywhere else. However, Rollin attained a marginal cult status in niche English-speaking genre circles in the nineties because of home video. Otherwise, he has remained completely obscure.
When you begin a career as a filmmaker, you imagine that everyone will know your name and your films. That you will have those handy little lists of your top work, and that even accolades will come your way. For the very few, this is the case, but for the majority, we will maybe never know their work. For filmmakers who began in the 1950s or 60s, their work may already be gone, unseen by those who could find it. Without a strong cult following later in his career, such artists like Jean Rollins would have suffered the same fate.
In Orchestrator of Storms, we find a filmmaker who’s work could not really be pegged down. Even when you tried to select a genre for his work, he was never accepted to it. Rollins work stands alone in French cinema, yet he was an acquired taste, one that was not overly liked. Here, directors Ballin and Ellinger use film footage, narration and talking heads to delve into the life and career of the director. Creating a fantastic love letter to him, one that lingers with you afterwards.
What strikes throughout Orchestrator of Storms is how Rollins was just so persistent in keeping going. Through all of the strife his career had, the hurdles he had to jump and drag himself through. It is wonderful that in the later years of his career audiences began to find his films. He could see how appreciative people were of his movies. Participants in the film talk about instances of him flying himself over for a small film festival, and despite there only being 50 people at his screening, he was thrilled. He was delighted that there were, in fact, 50 people who wanted to watch his film.
Rollin’s persistence had him shuffling between mainstream films to adult films. But he never stopped, always looking for the following picture, which is just so captivating. Be it badly timed releases into French cinemas or the fact that his career began when the French New Wave was rising. His work was pushed to the side and disregarded for these other emerging artists. Without a doubt, you would immediately know if Rollins were born or made his films elsewhere, his work would have been set above like Hammer.
There is a wonderful honesty that Ballin and Ellinger have placed within Orchestrator of Storms. This is not wholly a documentary that talks up how great a person and filmmaker and person Rollins was, no. Instead, here they have made a firm point to show his flaws, to highlight moments in his career that other documentaries aiming for a glossier touch would quickly emit. By keeping those moments from Rollin’s life and having commentators talk about them, we get a wider and stronger scope of the man, and the film soars because of it.
As said at the top of this review, if by the end of Orchestrator of Storms, you are not going out to search for some of his work, then you are being foolish. His work, while rife with eroticism, has meaning and purpose; I can’t wait to delve into it. Filmmakers like Rollins put their hearts and their souls into their work even though Rollins has now passed on. This documentary is something that can carry on his work and becomes a great entry point into his filmography.
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