24th November (Sunday)
This has not been the first time in the history of our festival that we present Walerian Borowczyk`s films. The previous attempt to review the output of this outstanding author of animated and short films as well as a controversial director of erotic feature length films was made 15 years ago, in 1998. Despite considerable effort of the Festival`s Organization Office, the Animated Film Studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, and, first of all, the personal involvement of Myriam Prongué – the then director of the Krakow`s Office of the Arts Council Pro Helvetia, we managed only partially to finalize the project of Borowczyk`s work retrospective. During the preparations it turned out that film copies, especially from the important early period of the artist`s stay in France, from the period before his feature film debut – Mr. and Mrs. Kabal`s Theatre (Le concert de M. et Mme Kabal, 1967), are practically unavailable. The technical condition of the copies we were using at the time, as well as of those not fit for screening, outraged the artist so much that, despite the original announcement, Borowczyk did not come to Krakow and did not take part in this “cut” retrospective, prepared with the use of – as he bluntly described himself – “fragments of tape with holes.”
Walerian Borowczyk (born in 1923 in Kwilcz near Poznan, died in 2006 in France) was a versatile artist, author of animated films, a visual artist, photographer, film set designer, writer, and author of artistic erotic films. He lived in France since 1959.
He took the love for painting after his father, and that is why, after completing his speeded-up education in Poznan after World War II, he was accepted to the Faculty of Painting and Graphic Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. He got interested in film during his studies. He designed film and theatre posters, and published satirical drawings, in, among others, Szpilki and Życie Literackie. It was in Szpilki where he met Jan Lenica, whom he made interested in animated film. In 1957 they made Once upon a time there was (Był sobie raz), a collage of paper cut-outs, which turned out to be an international success. Their next film, The House (Dom, 1958) as well as their individual projects changed the former Polish animation and exerted enormous influence on international animation. After moving to France (together with his wife, the actress Ligia “Branice” Borowczyk) he made animated films for a short time (for example Renaissance (Renesans 1963), shown at the festival in Krakow, or a feature length animation Mr. and Mrs. Kabal’s Theatre (Le concert de M. et Mme Kabal, 1967), to finally focus on feature films (since 1969 he was making almost exclusively live-action feature length films).
In France he focused on films about eroticism. In 1966 he made a short film Rosalie based on Guy de Maupassant`s short story, in which his wife played the leading role. The film was awarded the Silver Bear Award at the festival in Berlin and the Golden Dragon Award at the International Short Film Festival (MFFK) in Krakow in 1967. His first feature length film was Goto, Island of Love (Goto, l’île d’amour, 1968), favourably received by the critics. In the following years he made Blanche (1971), inspired by Juliusz Słowacki`s Mazeppa, and Immoral Tales (Contes immoraux, 1974), which only confirmed his status as one of the most interesting authors of artistic erotic films. Story of a sin (Dzieje grzechu) made in Poland in 1975, generated heated discussions. According to the director, it was not so much of an adaptation, but rather an “illustration” of Stefan Żeromski`s novel. Story of a sin drew the critics` attention because of the film`s extreme visual sophistication as well as attention paid to every detail of film set design. Even though the cameraman was one of the most talented Polish cameramen at the time – Zygmunt Samosiuk – he had to completely yield to Borowczyk`s vision. In the same year The Beast (La bête) was made, based on Prosper Merimee`s short story Lokis.
Even though later Borowczyk made 10 other feature length films, the already mentioned Story of a sin, The Beast and Immoral Tales are considered his most important achievements in the field of erotic feature film.
The presented selection of Walerian Borowczyk`s 9 short films comes from the least known, and, because of a long time lack of film copies in satisfactory technical condition, unavailable period in his artistic production (between 1961 – 1969). This groundbreaking decade in the artist`s work is characterized by slow departure from animated film to short live-action films, to which, however, still apply the same rules as to animations. Thanks to the effort of a British company Arrow Films and the personal commitment of Daniel Bird, an indefatigable popularizer of Borowczyk`s output, years later we are able to supplement the programme of our retrospective from 1998 with films key to the artist`s outstanding contribution to the history of cinematography.
L’ENCYCLOPÉDIE DE GRAND-MAMAN EN 13 VOLUMES / ENCYKLOPEDIA BABUNI W 13 TOMACH / GRANDMOTHER’S ENCYCLOPEDIA, scen./sc., reż./dir.: Walerian Borowczyk, Francja/France, 1963, 7’, anim.
Borowczyk saw the potential of animating cutouts from Victorian encyclopedias and novels. Taking the idea from Max Ernst’s “A Week of Kindness”, he gives them live with effects that are both comical and surrealist.
LE CONCERT DE M. ET MME KABAL / TEATR PANA I PANI KABAL / MR AND MRS KABALS THEATRE, scen./sc., reż./dir.: Walerian Borowczyk, Francja/France, 1961, 7’, anim.
The first appearance of Mr. and Mrs . Kabal, a domestic couple who are both constanly at war and yet very much in love, managing to humiliate and dismember each other in the process.
RENAISSANCE / RENESANS / RENAISSANCE, scen./sc., reż./dir.: Walerian Borowczyk, Francja/France, 1963, 10’, anim.
Featuring wrecked, handmade objects including a doll, a stuffed owl and a trumpet that gradually reconstructs before exploding again, this signature work by Borowczyk is completed by a humorous Baroque soundtrack.
LES JEUX DES ANGES / ZABAWY ANIOŁÓW / THE GAME OF THE ANGELS, scen./sc., reż./dir.: Walerian Borowczyk, Francja/France, 1964, 13’, anim.
„News coverage in the City of Angels”, according to the artist. Based on a series of abstract, metaphysical gouaches, it evokes the horror of both the concentration camps and the Gulag.
LE DICTIONNAIRE DE JOACHIM / SŁOWNIK JOACHIMA / DICTIONARY OF JOACHIM, scen./sc., reż./dir.: Walerian Borowczyk, Francja/France, 1965, 9’, anim. (DB)
Joachim defines 26 words, each beginning with a different letter. A succession of visual definitions suggests a doomed attempt at mastering the absurdities of the world. Borowczyk at his most anarchic.
ROSALIE / ROZALIA, scen./sc., reż./dir.: Walerian Borowczyk, Francja/France, 1966, 15’, anim.
Borowczyk’s personal favorite. Based on a story by Guy de Maupassant, it relates the plight of a servant girl who kills and buries her child in a garden. Touching performance by Ligia Borowczyk.
DIPTIQUE / DYPTYK / DIPTYCH, scen./sc., reż./dir.: Walerian Borowczyk, Francja/France, 1967, 8’, anim.
An old farmer and his ragged dog ride a jalopy back home. Shot hand and held in grainy B&W, the first scenes are in stark contrast to the second part, which features a succession of scenes in startling color.
GAVOTTE / GAWOT, scen./sc., reż./dir.: Walerian Borowczyk, Francja/France, 1967, 10’, anim.
Two bored dwarves fight over a cushion. Completely wordless with music from an off-camera harpsichord, Gavotte is a step towards live action. Borowczyk uses formal constraints for comic effect.
LE PHONOGRAPHE / GRAMOFON, scen./sc., reż./dir.: Walerian Borowczyk, zdj./ph.: Guy Durbin, Francja/France, 1969, 6’, anim.(DB)
An old phonograph assembles itself and plays songs on wax drums before self destructing. Through a succession of close-ups, this piece conveys a love of craftsmanship and pre-war nostalgia.