The film takes place before, during and immediately after the engagement party of Dr.Henry Jekyll and Miss Fanny Osborne, attended by numerous highly respectable guests (a general, a doctor, a priest, a lawyer), the last of which informs the company that a child has been murdered in the street outside. While the others watch a young dancer perform, Dr.Jekyll instructs the lawyer to alter his will, leaving everything to a certain Mr.Hyde. Shortly afterwards, the dancer is found murdered, and the guests realise that one of their number must be a maniac with a prodigious sexual appetite… Continue reading
The Astronauts (1959) is a short, collaborative animation project between eccentric filmmakers Walerian Borowczyk and Chris Marker. Borowczyk would later move into live-action film-making, turning his attention to a cinema of perverse eroticism with projects like Goto, The Island of Love (1969), The Immoral Tales (1974), Beast (1975) and Emmanuelle 5 (1987). Likewise, Marker would produce the short masterpiece La Jetée (1962), the celebrated proto-documentary Sans Soleil (1983) and his critical study of Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, A.K. (1985). The film, at twelve-minutes in length, is a testament to the creative energy and ideas of these two filmmakers, not only standing as an interesting short film in its own right, but as a window into the creative world of these two, highly skilled, highly original filmmakers. It remains an amazing piece of work for this very reason, more so perhaps than any other; even if it is admittedly impossible to distinguish between which filmmaker was responsible for each individual part of the creative process, leaving us to assume that it was a pure collaboration in every sense of the word. Continue reading
Walerian Borowczyk’s second feature was just as original as his first. Almost entirely live action this time, it is situated on the archipelago of Goto, which has been cut off from the rest of human civilisation by a massive earthquake and has consequently developed its own arcane rules. Melancholic dictator Goto III (Pierre Brasseur) is married to the beautiful Glossia (Ligia Branice), who in turn is lusted after by the petty thief Gozo (Guy Saint-Jean) as he works his way up the hierarchy. Continue reading
Touted as having been based on a hitherto lost manuscript by Robert Louis Stevenson, writer/director Walerian Borowczyk’s take on the Strange Tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde reworks the material as a heady brew of sex, violence, philosophy and surrealistic drawing room farce.
Following a blue tinted title card showing that bastion of respectability and hypocrisy the Houses of Parliament, we emerge into the sort of shadowy, foggy street that you imagine Jack the Ripper must have stalked and a terrified girl. Someone is after her…
She tries to hide, but to no avail and the mysterious figure attacks, then flees in the direction of Henry Jekyll’s town house… Continue reading
Walerian Borowczyk’s Most Underrated Film
Borowczyk remains one of the least appreciated filmmakers of his era, inarguably an auteur, but one so erratic and unusual that he remains cherished only by a handful of critics for his early surrealist work and by cult movie devotees for his later, sexually-explicit films. While from the mid-seventies onward his films would range from the good (Behind Convent Walls, The Story of Sin) to the not-so-good (The Art of Love, Immoral Tales, etc), his film-making legacy rests with the bizarre La Bete, which unfortunately belongs to the latter category. However it is his early films (both animated and live action) that are undoubtedly Borowczyk’s key works – Blanche, for instance, is one of the finest films ever made, while Goto the Island of Love is almost as good – and in many ways these films set up the themes that would be prevalent throughout much of his subsequent work, most importantly that sex is constantly linked with guilt, persecution and death. Continue reading
Art House Erotica, 23 September 1998
Author: Stefan Kahrs from Canterbury, England
La Marge is the kind of film conventional film critics hate to review, because it does not quite fit into these little genre boxes they have in their heads.
In its cinematography and story-telling La Marge is very much like an Art House picture: we have emotions, tragedy, laughter, silence, pictures telling a story, plot twists, slow pace, all the ingredients you might expect in the most toffee-nosed productions only people with a university degree are supposed to enjoy. And yet, it is also a piece of erotica, shamelessly exploitative and very effective in its abundant use of (mostly) female nudity and its sex scenes. Continue reading
In this remarkable film, Borowczyk, through his commitment to ambiguity (notably in his framing, which forever denies the foreground/background opposition) and his belief in almost entomological observation, transforms his 13th century characters – a foolish old Baron, an overproud King, a lecherous page and a stupidly handsome lover, all of whom are in love with and/or lust after the simple Blanche, the Baron’s young wife – into tragic figures caught up in a dance of death over which they have no control. In exactly the same way, the castle and its decor, photographed by Borowczyk as though it were living and its inhabitants were mere dolls for the most part, is seen as the backdrop to a happy fairytale, and at the same time as the root of all evil, as rooms and bizarre machines are opened and set in motion. Continue reading