Borowczyk

From: Jack Sargeant (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Feb 24 2006 - 10:47:36 PST


A true great of odd cinema.
Jack

   Surrealist whose films blurred the lines between erotic art and
exploitation

                                   Ronald Bergan
Thursday February 23, 2006
The Guardian

Whether as the creator of extraordinary animated films, weird wood and
paper sculptures, surreal paintings and lithographs, or as director of
erotic fairy tales, the oeuvre of Walerian Borowczyk, who has died aged
82, always displayed an audacious individuality, a macabre wit, vivid,
often disconcerting, imagination and a highly decorative style.

Born in Poland, Borowczyk studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts
in Krakow, winning Poland's national prize in 1953 for his lithographic
work. In 1955 he began designing posters for Polish films, and two
years later became a co-animator (with Jan Lenica) on a number of short
cartoons. These included Dom (Home, 1958), which depicted the fantasies
of a woman waiting alone at home, composed of different techniques such
as a pixilated wig roaming the kitchen, and a live-action woman making
love to a male mannequin which disintegrated beneath her passion

                    In 1959 Borowczyk settled in Paris, where he made
most of his films and spent the rest of his life. Notable among the
first animated shorts he made in France were Renaissance (1963), the
reconstruction of destroyed objects using reverse motion, and the
nightmarish Jeux des Anges (Game of Angels, 1965), an elegy for the
victims of Auschwitz using cut-out graphics.

Borowczyk's sense of cruelty and fear, conveyed through fine line
drawing, was evident in his first full-length film, The Concert of Mr
and Mrs Kabal (1963), which revolved around a couple; the husband a
dreamer and lover of butterflies, the wife a huge matron with the head
of a vulture. Given his surreal vision, it is not surprising that
Borowczyk received the Max Ernst prize in 1967.

In 1968 he made his first live-action feature, Goto, Island of Love, in
which he pursued the bitterly ironic surrealist vein of his animated
films. Despite the director's claim that it was "a realistic film", it
created an absurd and frightening world, full of nostalgic
paraphernalia such as music boxes, phonographs and ancient instruments
of torture. The film featured Borowczyk's Polish wife, Ligia Branice,
as the errant wife of a cruel dictator.

Branice starred again in the title role of Blanche (1972), which began
Borowczyk's series of erotic and decorative period pieces, usually set
in the middle ages. Borowczyk gave the film the look of tapestry or
medieval painting, against which Branice, compared to a white dove
throughout, flutters gently and beautifully as the heroine married off
to an aged nobleman (Michel Simon), who keeps her heavily guarded -
though not enough to stop three young men penetrating the castle.

Borowczyk's fascination with the iconography of erotica and
subconscious emotions - he himself had a small sex museum - continued
with Immoral Tales (1974), four bawdy stories depicted with
characteristic visual richness. The film, something of a succes de
scandale, showed a girl discovering the joys of masturbation from a
book of erotic engravings, Lucrezia Borgia making love to Pope
Alexander VI and the Countess Bathory (played by Paloma Picasso)
bathing in the blood of murdered girls.

Borowczyk returned briefly to Poland to make The Story of a Sin (1975).
This was a period melodrama with a fetishistic use of shoes and
underwear set in turn-of-the century Poland and about a seduced and
abandoned teenage girl.

Back in France, The Beast (1975), in which a woman is sexually aroused
by a mythological monster, half bear, half wolf, provided a host of
Freudian symbols, while getting Borowczyk the reputation in some
quarters as a purveyor of soft porn - something he did nothing to
discourage. Despite the antecedents of Behind Convent Walls (1977),
Lulu (1980), Dr Jekyll and His Women (1981) - in which Mr Hyde sports a
large phallus - and The Art of Love (1983) being Stendhal, Wedekind,
Robert Louis Stevenson and Ovid respectively, the boundary between art
and exploitation in Borowczyk's movies was becoming more blurred. But
as he once said, "Film is a security valve for instincts that are
condemned. The individual reveals himself outwardly, releases himself
and hurts no one. He identifies with what he sees, kills via an
intermediary and lives an experience through the cinema."

Borowczyk, who never regained the favourable critical consensus of his
earlier films, claimed to have made films that excited him - and made a
profit. His wife survives him.

Walerian Borowczyk, animator, film director, sculptor and
photographer, born September 2 1923; died February 3 2006

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