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« Choosing a How-To-Paint Book -- 2 | Main | Bonuses »

December 18, 2008

Debbie Rochon

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

debbie.jpg

Have you heard of the actress Debbie Rochon? She's one of the great figures of the current exploitation and cult cinema. Now 40, she has appeared in over 150 movies, none of which you've ever heard of -- at least, if you aren't a low-budget sleaze and horror fan. Sample titles: "Corpses Are Forever," "Playmate of the Apes," "Vampire Seduction."

But while many of the movies she has acted in have been forgettable quickies, Debbie Rochon's talents and performances are anything but. In fact, she's a dynamite actress. (It's a tribute to the discernment of exploitation buffs that many of them recognize Rochon as the real deal.) In cheesy movie after quickie movie -- often working with directors who have no idea at all what they're doing, and opposite performers who are barely performers at all -- Rochon delivers balls-out, fully-felt, and surprisingly sophisticated and touching performances.

(Not that there's anything wrong with sleazy and / or quickie movies, god knows! If there's one lesson movie history drives home over and over again, it's that movies that are dismissed as shallow popular trash when they're released sometimes turn out to have more staying power than movies that initially seem far more plausible. Some major examples: '30s monster movies, '50s sci-fi, film noir, and Italian giallo films.)

Petite and spunky, tough yet vulnerable, Rochon has a stylized waif / gamine quality that reminds me of the French actress Elodie Bouchez, and a rueful, wised-up soulfulness that puts me in mind of Diane Lane. She combines a bruised, wild-child, rock-chick spirit with a European art-movie-diva aura -- she's half Skid Row bohemian, half "Jules and Jim" / "La Notte" tragedienne.

Rochon also has a scrappy and amazing, go-it-her-own-way life story: She started out as a street kid in Vancouver, stumbled into movies, moved to New York for training, opted for the exploitation track rather than the mainstream career track ... Truly independent, she works without an agent, maintaining a close relationship with Troma mastermind Lloyd Kaufman ... She writes for exploitation-cinema magazines and co-hosts a Sirius radio show with the rocker Dee Snider ...

Given that Debbie Rochon is one of the underappreciated treasures of contempo American popular culture, a major mystery to me is why the hipsters who work in the big-budget movie world -- guys like Tarantino, Rodriguez, Linklater, Fincher, etc -- haven't pounced on Rochon and turned her into a mainstream icon. Dudez: time to show a little of your canny-casting stuff, please.

Thefold.tv is spending the week running an interview with Debbie Rochon in short excerpts: part one, part two, part three, part four. In addition to her other virtues, Rochon turns out to be far more down-to-earth, articulate, and thoughtful than actresses usually are. Watch, listen, enjoy, learn.

Here's Debbie Rochon's own website.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at December 18, 2008




Comments

Perhaps they have asked her, but she just doesn't want to do mainstream? My wife and I are fans of horror movies, and even the most "mainstream" horror movies are never really mainstream. We attend a lot of the cons and have even developed relationships with some of the actors and directors. The one thing that's obvious from all of them is they just love what they do and don't really want to do anything else. Most, at this point, make their livings primarily from these cons selling autographs and just love the interaction with their fans. Having been to major cons in Toronto, with all of the big, mainstream stars I can tell you that you can't have that level of interaction when you his the big time. Fans are pushed in front of you for as long as you can sign your name and pushed out of the way just as quickly.

I guess the point of all of this rambling is: some artists still do their craft for the art, not the money.

Posted by: Upstate Guy on December 18, 2008 10:04 AM



It seems out of character for you to have picked the least flattering possible picture of the very good looking Ms. Rochon. Not counting the topless onese, there are still a bunch of better pix on Google images.

Posted by: Lexington Green on December 18, 2008 12:10 PM



Did someone say topless?

Posted by: michael from GA on December 18, 2008 1:13 PM



In a world beset by the fictional crisis of global warming, suffering from the concocted catastrophe of Peak Oil, and other dreary made-up armagedonnic fantasies, it warms my evil fascist heart to see that there are still those willing to come up with make-believe horror fests that are actually fun!

Like Debbie Rochon films. She is just so much more attractive, talented and truthful than Al Gore.

Screech of the Decapitated has more wisdom and guidance for these troubled times than all the disaster-mongering fiction you see on the airwaves and read in the papers these days.

I am proud that Debbie is a fellow Canadian: which means she's polite but twisted. I imagine Ramesh's cranium must be imploding sometime around now.

Posted by: PatrickH on December 18, 2008 1:36 PM



RE: In cheesy movie after quickie movie -- often working with directors who have no idea at all what they're doing, and opposite performers who are barely performers at all -- Rochon delivers balls-out, fully-felt, and surprisingly sophisticated and touching performances.

I have no problem with sleazy movies. But life is too short to waste watching amateur productions helmed by inept directors or filled with poor actors. And this is not an issue of genre or budget. One of the most unwatchable performances of all time is that given by Sofia Coppola in "Godfather 3." It is a lesson in how a talentless performer provides nothing that a good actor can react to and brings down the entire production.

By the way, I also have no patience for actors who appear mainly in indie films that appeal only to the culture snobs (Parker Posey comes to mind here) and that are touted simply because they are not mainstream.

That said, thanks for bringing Rochon to my attention. I hope that one day she does something I might want to see.


Posted by: Alec on December 18, 2008 2:14 PM



This broad has SUFFERED!*


*and she doesn't let you forget it

Posted by: ricpic on December 18, 2008 6:40 PM



Michael, I'll cast about for some of this lady's work. Sounds like she's just the ticket...a genuine achiever, no interest in decorating the next zillion dollar flop.

This is anecdotal, from an American expat film buff I knew years ago. Vincent Price was asked the inevitable: how did he feel about using his talents in horror movies for mass consumption? His answer was that he was doing what he loved most, took great pride in it and aspired to more of the same.

Never a Hollywood refusnik, Price loved the money, was a major foodie, and was married to an Aussie. Way to go, Vincent! (Was also a liberal, but, oh well, maybe that was just his life imitating his creepy art.)

Posted by: Robert Townshend on December 18, 2008 10:19 PM



Did somebody say topless?

For sure! (NSFW, duh)

Posted by: Peter on December 18, 2008 10:49 PM



I could never get into those Troma type movies. For my money, pretty girls in thriller / horror movies means 20 year-old Phoebe Cates in Gremlins, or Olivia Hussey in Black Christmas, with dark hair flowing down to the small of her back. Almost as cute as in Romeo and Juliet.

The archetype of the masculinized butt-kicking, badass, tattooed babe is just too... geeky. Lara Croft and what's her name in Resident Evil too. "Dude, I'd hardly have to do any work -- *she* would hunt *me* down!"

Yeah, but you'd cum harder staring into Phoebe Cates' dollface eyes. (I admit she needs a chin reduction, though.)

Posted by: agnostic on December 19, 2008 1:22 AM



I thought Sofia Coppola was rather touching in Godfather III. Sure, she can't act, and so her "performance" sticks out. But the softness and hesitancy of her presence--both largely attributable to the fact that she is a non-actor--bring something unusual to the table.

For me, the truly unwatchable performance in Godfather III belongs to Eli Wallach.

Alas, I'm going to have to turn in my card as a sleaze-loving moviegoer because I'm not familiar with Rochon's stuff. I'll make a note to check her out via Netflix.

Posted by: Ron on December 19, 2008 8:41 AM



UG -- That's a great bunch of points. I tend to think the mainstream can use some of the spice that people like Rochon bring to the table, and I tend to think that people like Rochon can probably use some mainstream paychecks and recognition. But I could well be wrong. That's cool that you're into the horror scene in a big way -- eager to hear more about that. It seems so much more enthusiastic and friendly than many more respectable scenes ...

Lex -- You're a Debbie and a horror fan? Well, after a moment of surprise that does make sense -- it's kind of the punk-rock side of the movie world. You don't dig the photo of Debbie as a bad Goth girl? I love it myself. Time for Lex to write (and illustrate) his own appreciation of Debbie Rochon. Eager to read such a thing!

Michael G -- I think that peddling toplessness has been a major part of Rochon's career.

PatrickH -- Debbie's got *many* advantages over Al Gore. But that's just my wee opinion. Don't let this get around, but I'm kind of a closet Canada fan. I like the vast spaces, the low-key quality, the loosely-roped-together thing, the non-USA-ness of it, the deep-dyed conservatism ... No idea if I'd want to live there (though I love Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver -- and a special fave, Nelson, B.C.) but I sure have enjoyed all my visits. Kind of fun that most people either don't think about Canada or consider it a joke too. More left over for the rest of us to enjoy.

Alec - Yeah, it's a bit of a puzzle even so far as recommendations go: which Debbie film to watch? She's almost always great, but the movies ... On the third hand, some of them may well turn out to have lasting power, the low-budget exploitation/horror scene is genuinely fascinating and fun (and I'd argue that it's culturally significant and underrecognized too) in a semi-DIY way .. So it's cool and interesting to explore (at least a bit) even if you aren't into horror, and even if you don't find the movies great. And it's an interesting conundrum of American culture generally that the mainstream hasn't recognized, let alone begun to make use of, someone as gifted and attractive as Rochon. How many other superfab talents are out there, completely unknown to the rest of us? And whassup with the mainstream?

Ricpic -- I think she *has* had a pretty tough life. Do you find that she overdwells on it, or turns it into schtick? Maybe that's the fault of the people who write about her and interview her, though ... Hard to know about these things ...

Robert T. -- That's a nice Vincent Price tale, thanks. Great to see people taking pride in their craft and work and giving a good shrug to the respectability thing, isnt it?

Peter -- Our porn bookmark folders have a definite mutual resemblance.

Agnostic -- Funny how big a deal Troma is to people of a certain generation, and how invisible a force it is to people older than that. You may not like the Troma products, but you know about them. People older than about 35 often haven't even heard of Troma.

Ron -- I'd forgotten that Eli Wallach was even in "Godfather 3." Shows you how Swiss-cheesy my mind has become. Did he stink up the screen? My problems with the film had so little to do with the performances (even Sofia's) that I can't remember who was bad and who was good. Just seemed like another piece of FF Coppola navel-gazing to me. A big mystery to me is why FFC thinks he's a gifted navel-gazer. My current theory is that navel-gazing is what FFC thinks art is, or ought to be. What's your hunch?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 19, 2008 10:42 AM



Michael--Yes, Eli Wallach is in GF3, and he is terrible (or at least that's how I remember him). Actually, one of the things I remember most about that movie are the performances. They're all over-anxious and pushed to the extreme, as though the actors were under the impression that by overacting they could do justice to Brando. And they don't connect with anything, including the characterizations from the earlier movies. Talia Shire is doing some kind of Terminator-kabuki-yenta thing. Andy Garcia is like a sneering wind-up toy. (To be fair, I'm sure a good portion of this is attributable to Francis.)

Maybe that's why I remember Sofia favorably--at least she wasn't acting!

I don't get the feeling that FFC really knows what made the first two Godfathers great. And if he does have some inkling, he can't get back in touch with it. His movies give one the feeling that he's swinging wildly at air. Maybe you're right that this is attributable to a wacky idea of what constitutes "art."

But FFC isn't alone: I think a lot of American directors who were good or great during the '70s have lost touch with their own talents.

Scorsese's recent movies are all flashbulbs and camera movements (and homages, sometimes to himself). There is no sense of redemption, of demons purged, that you get in the early stuff. Spielberg's are drab and so well-intentioned they might as well be greeting cards.

Does either man have a clue as to what he's really good at? Rather than working to their talents, they both seem to be trying to fill out their own impressions of what makes a Great Director.

Posted by: Ron on December 23, 2008 10:29 AM






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