MARCH 18, 2013
The funny thing about The Iron Rose (French: La rose de fer) is that it's sort of like the horror movie version of one of those Before Sunrise/After Sunset/etc movies with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy - the movie has no real PLOT, it's just two folks wandering around, talking about their lives, and maybe exploring their future together. But it's in a cemetery, and while I haven't seen the newest installment of the series, I'm pretty sure Delpy never traps Hawke in a coffin and lets him suffocate, though I guess it's possible a random clown will come out of nowhere and put flowers down at some point. Richard Linklater's pretty unpredictable like that.
But actually they don't talk too much at length; they will walk in silence (save for incidental dialogue - "Come on" and such) for a while and then one of them will offer some sort of poetic observation, like noting the existence of a plant that takes 50 years to bloom and then dies. It's all very dreamlike and atmospheric (and romantic in a very odd way), but it's hardly a chatty movie, nor is there much of a plot beyond what I've already described. It's actually based on a poem, and Jean Rollin seemingly didn't add much to it in order to make a feature - the visuals and basic concept are pretty much all he's concerned with here, making it the most arty of his films that I've seen since the first (Rape of the Vampire).
Apparently, this was his first film without vampires in it, so kudos to him for going so far in another direction. There's no "monster" or even real supernatural element to the film; they get trapped in the cemetery but it's not specifically anything otherworldly keeping them there - maybe they just have a terrible sense of direction. But it definitely fits the horror bill; in addition to the generally spooky atmosphere (it's a pretty striking cemetery - they even talk about how overly exquisite the tombstones are, with one of them describing it as a waste of money) there are some scary bits scattered throughout, like stumbling across a bunch of tiny coffins filled with scattered bones, or falling into a grave. Rollin is clearly more interested in romance and ruminating on the life/death cycle than scares, but I could see a remake of this movie being made that also lacked a traditional villain and just had two people trapped in a cemetery and dealing with all of the inherently terrifying things that could happen in that situation.
He's also not very interested in traditional pacing or anything like that, as the movie's final 10 minutes mostly consist of The Girl (Françoise Pascal - the characters are not given names) dancing around the cemetery. It's not a very long movie, but it starts to drag a bit here, as the suspense regarding their "escape" from the cemetery is completely deflated, with The Boy not even in the picture at this point and her just having a grand old time. So like a few of his others, going in expecting a horror movie is a bit of a disservice; it's closer to a tragic romance than horror, really - it just USES horror staples (crypts! weird people watching you! clowns!) to tell that story (for lack of a better word).
I've liked others more, but of the ones I've seen this is the Rollin I'd most like to see on a 35mm print on a big screen, as opposed to a streaming version on my computer monitor (something's wrong with my Xbox adapter I think - I can never get full quality on there anymore). Again, the cemetery is just wonderful to look at, and the life a good 35mm print provides for a film SHOT on film (that a digital version never will be able to replicate, sorry, film haters - it's true. The best DCP in the world is still a simulated copy of the analog original - it's "Gus Van Sant Psycho"ing the film, in other words) would enrich that atmosphere and Rollin's usual striking visuals. Not to mention engulf you in the world he's created, something that's harder to do when you're watching a computer screen - your field of vision just includes too many other elements. It's fine for a story/plot driven film where the visuals are secondary, but for something like this, I'd recommend making the best effort to see it sans any possible distractions.
OK, what next? Horror-wise, apart from Lips Of Blood (which appears to be edited, though this one had a shorter runtime than reported on IMDb, too but I couldn't find anything about an edited version) all that's left on Instant are _________ Vampire movies: Requiem for, Shiver of, The Nude, and Two Orphan. Should I just go in order?
What say you?