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  Night of the Hunted, The Forgetting To Remember
Year: 1980
Director: Jean Rollin
Stars: Brigitte Lahaie, Alain Duclos, Vincent Gardère, Dominique Journet, Bernard Papineau, Rachel Mhas, Cathy Stewart, Natalie Perrey, Christiane Farina, Élodie Delage, Jean Hérel, Jacques Gall, Dominique Saint-Cyr, Gregoire Cherlian, Jean Cherlian
Genre: Horror, Sex, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Elisabeth (Brigitte Lahaie) is wandering through the countryside at night, escaping from something she does not remember, for her memory is full of holes. She stumbles into the road just as a car approaches and the driver, Robert (Alain Duclos), has to stop, but on catching sight of this young woman in a confused state he gets out and guides her to his vehicle, offering her a lift. She asks to be taken home, so he pulls away and they travel into the nearest town, which happens to be where he lives, except she cannot recall where her home is at all and Robert takes her to his place to gather her thoughts...

Jean Rollin's stock in trade were his eerie, sexualised vampire movies, but he did try out other forms of horror as well, and The Night of the Hunted, or La Nuit des Traquées if you were French-speaking, could be viewed as a rare excursion into science fiction for the cult director. This was the science fiction of Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville, where the modern day was made to look futuristic simply by the choices of shots and the locations, in this case once the character of Elisabeth was recaptured she ended up in a cold, impersonal tower block in the middle of Paris, or at least she can see the Arc de Triomphe from her window.

But before that she makes a connection with Robert, not least because they enjoy a sexual encounter which could have seemed like your basic softcore cliché, but here is important because it generates a note of much-needed humanity in a world where such precious commodities are seriously lacking. As well as being a long scene of titillation, of course, Rollin knew his audience, but there's a weight of melancholy to this work which arose out of denying the inevitable, which was that we were all going to die sooner or later. Watching a film where most of the characters in it are losing their mental faculties might not sound like a great way to pass an hour and a half, it's true.

Yet it tied in with the director's meditation on the overwhelming nature of death, and how when it is growing ever closer all the things you took for granted, all that sharpness of thought you used to enjoy, is eroded until there's really nothing left. There's no sense here of a happy afterlife everyone is headed for, the impression is more that once the film ends then so do the character's lives and no more will become of them, so spirituality is a dead end. If there's anything that might offer some solace, it's the way that you could fall in love, and you can hang on to that if you're lucky as the curtain falls on your consciousness: the movie's final shot is one of the most poignant in this director's canon.

It seems odd to say about a film which appears to be sexploitation to all intents and purposes, as not five minutes go by without someone whipping their clothes off and even indulging in sexual activity, but The Night of the Hunted was infused with a deep sadness you would not find in a typical entry of the form from many other directors. This doesn't mean it's one of his most lauded works, Rollin didn't like it much himself, but maybe it deserved a higher profile as his distinctive stylings are at somewhere near their best here, and in Lahaie he had one of the actresses most sympathetic to his aims. The state of confusion of the other patients led to that sense of powerlessness, of hopelessness, in the face of the crushing inevitability of the finale, and we might have been given an explanation for why these people are in such a bad way, but it verged on the perfunctory when you could perceive Rollin had bigger fish to fry. For once, he had a focus that rendered this less meandering than he could often be, no less slow-paced, but strangely effective. Music by Philippe Bréjean.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Jean Rollin  (1938 - 2010)

A lifelong film fan, French director Jean Rollin worked consistently since the 1950s, but it was his horror films that would bring him most attention, starting with Le viol du vampire in 1968, a work that caused a minor riot on its initial showings. This showed Rollin the way to further dreamlike entertainments, often with a strong sexual element. Other films included Le vampire nue, Le frisson de vampires, Les Raisins de la mort, Fascination (often regarded as his masterpiece), The Living Dead Girl, Zombie Lake and a number of hardcore porn features. He was working up until his death, with his latest Le Masque de la Meduse released the year of his demise.

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