Orchestrator of Storms (2022)

Director: Dima Ballin, Kat Ellinger

Runtime: 112 Minutes

For Eurocult director Jean Rollin, his love for films began as a child when he was taken to watch 1943's Le Capitaine Fracasse at the cinema. That encouraged Rollin to make films, a profession he beautifully referred to as an "Orchestrator of Storms", and would persist up to his days on dialysis. Directors Dima Ballin and Kat Ellinger chronicle the man's life and career through exhaustive research, as interviewees offer personal tales and academic readings of this filmmaker that just wanted to set his imagination free.

Making films described as somewhere between horror and sexploitation, his work was an attempt to create beauty from the grotesque by stretching what could be done with the gothic. From a bat resting on a woman's crotch, to a pair of clowns fleeing the countryside, he drew on surrealist paintings and his imagination to guide his films, finding imagery more important than story. This unique approach was influenced by the director's unconventional early years, where his parents' bohemian lifestyle saw him grow up around people who made confrontational and anti-clerical erotica.

What's clear was how Rollin truly seemed happy making films, driven to keep going until he physically could no longer work. It's sad that enthusiasm wasn't reflected in the funding, as investment was a constant uphill struggle. As he grappled with critical dismissals and his work being recut overseas, the man had a crisis of faith and turned to directing porn instead. This transitions into a bittersweet segment amidst declining health, as home-video and fanzines caused his fanbase to grow.

As the man previously dealt with his country and peers looking down upon him, it's heartwarming to hear how he enjoyed attending film-festivals and meeting fans. The arc may be familiar, an artist unappreciated in his time achieving recognition too late, yet that isn't an issue when it's such a captivating watch. What Ballin and Ellinger have delivered is an informative documentary which offers a comprehensive dive into filmmaker, food-for-thought that may spark reappraisals of his work, and an enticing first step for newbies into the fantastique world of Jean Rollin.

Orchestrator of Storms premiered at Fantasia Festival 2022