PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

'The Escapees' Is Equally Preposterous and Poetic

At turns poignant and silly, The Escapees is a lesser picture by Jean Rollin, one devoid of his fanciful surrealism.


The Escapees

Director: Jean Rollin
Cast: Laurence Dubas, Christiane Coppé
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Rated: Not Rated

Like Walerian Borowczyk, who specialized in surreal erotic horror, filmmaker Jean Rollin perfected a nearly baroque vision of crude romances, stories which were detailed with such precise and opulent beauty that the horror simply became an afterthought in his films. Not surprisingly, Rollin (once again, like Borowczyk) had been a painter before his career in cinema. Most of the French filmmaker’s work capitalized on the vampire-horror craze of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and his sexualized (and fetishized) view of blood and death presented a curiously gothic display of theatrics that was at once dated and promethean.

Rollin is probably best known for his films Fascination and Lips of Blood, vampire films heavy on the pulp and rather skimpy on logic. His preoccupations with nude woman, subservient male fantasies of lesbian relationships and eroticized deaths certainly didn’t win him much favour with the critics at the time; much of Rollin’s work was dismissed as softcore trash. A closer look at the late filmmaker’s work today reveals that much of his emotional contact with the viewer transpired in his uncanny and powerful visuals. Quite often, the visuals eclipsed the meagre storylines (usually for the better) and allowed the audience a portal into a world in which narrative coherence was nearly bereft.

The Escapees (1981), by Rollin’s admission, is one of his lesser efforts. It trawls the same roads of fetishized drama, but gone are the vampires and dark magic. Rather plaintive, the film is lacking in the haunting and beautiful surrealism of his works of supernatural horror. What we are presented with instead is an adolescent road film of slightly punkish temperament.

The film begins with two young girls, Michelle and Marie, who are committed to an asylum for the obvious reasons of past family abuses. Low-budget constraints of the film reveal that the “asylum”, suspiciously devoid of any institutional facilities, is most likely an unused apartment building. It’s a clear sign that Rollin, deprived of his usual ornaments of lavish settings, struggled to make do with the unintended minimalism. Michelle is a loud, abrasive and selfish young girl who wishes nothing more than to see the world before she dies. Marie is a catatonic recluse with a phobia of men. When the two conspire to escape from the institution, their journey down an adventurous road toward freedom introduces them to a succession of eccentrics who either help or hinder their efforts for a better life.

There are very strong echoes of Allan Moyle’s 1980 teen drama Times Square here, another film about two runaway girls who escape from a mental institution on the ill-conceived notion that what they find on the outside will surely be better than their current predicaments. Both of these films are troubled by a narrative that completely foregoes a sensible presentation of street life. In Rollin’s film, what vagrant life has in store for these two girls is a travelling strip-tease show (horribly staged), a pub maintained by a madam who allows underage drinking and swinging couples who bring these young girls back home for an evening of sex and deadly shoot-outs. It all seems utterly silly, and yet somehow Rollin manages a poetic reading of these preposterously grim sequences. There is, at times, a moving and elegiac undercurrent to the proceedings and even in the most implausible moments of adolescent fury, we are received with a poignancy typically missing in the flakiest of teen dramas.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray remaster of The Escapees shows the limitations of the low-budget print from time to time, especially in the opening sequence and the darker night time scenes. But the print appears healthy enough and, strangely, the grainy roughness actually services the film rather well; that is to say, the print for this film isn’t pretty, but neither is life for these two young girls. Sound comes through nicely and dialogue is clear. The only extra on the disc is a 2008 interview with Rollin who discusses his initial displeasure with the film, especially with his experiences working with the screenwriter whom he says offered him a muddled and boring script (Rollin himself wrote a script for the film and then fashioned the two respective screenplays together). The film is in French with English subtitles.

In his interview about the film, Rollin admits that the film has one especially powerful scene which elevates the drama above mere pap: its concluding scene. Sure enough, there’s a heartbreaking poeticism in the enigmatic close that nearly manages to negate much of the nonsense that came before it. If you can sit all the way through this uneven and compromised effort, you will be rewarded with a single moment of brilliance that Rollin executed many times over in his other superior films.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.