June 15 – June 29

IN AND OUT OF GRACE: POETRY AND PORNOGRAPHY IN THE CINEMA OF WALERIAN BOROWCZYK

Few more controversial figures enlivened cinema in the 20th century than Walerian Borowczyk (1923–2006); far fewer still experienced so massive a fall from critical grace.

An accomplished artist in several fields whose genius was often proclaimed, Borowczyk won a National Prize for lithography in his native Poland and enjoyed a celebrated career as a film poster designer even before his animations and initial feature films were extensively garlanded. Nonetheless, he was written off from the mid-1970s onwards for unrepentantly mining his enthusiasm for eroticism in material deemed far beneath his talents.

However, with many of his films newly re-entering circulation, there is finally a broader movement towards viewing and appraising his output as a coherent—and brilliant—whole. This season of imported prints runs the gamut of his singular oeuvre, from shorts credited with raising animation’s standing worldwide (Renaissance and Angels’ Games) to immediately-acclaimed early live-action features (Goto, Island of Love and The Story of Sin) and initially-derided later masterworks (La marge and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne), across key collaborations with designer/animator Jan Lenica, his actress wife Ligia Branice, and electronic music pioneer Bernard Parmegiani, via one of the most scandalous films of all time, The Beast.

Throughout, one can revel in a highly decorative and sensuous approach to mise en scène, a rare gift for matching soundtracks with images rich in period atmosphere and detail, a Buñuelian sense of mischief and provocation, and Borowczyk’s tirelessly productive investigations into how women and men might succumb to—and sometimes overcome—the forces of repression.

June 15

7:00PM – GOTO, ISLAND OF LOVE
Walerian Borowczyk
 (1969) 93 mins M

Filled with “visual poetry and powerful, fable-like storytelling” (David Thomson), Borowczyk’s absurdist debut feature takes place on a mythical island ruled by an imperious leader (played by French great Pierre Brasseur). Filmed in black-and-white with a few, brief colour shots, the film’s striking compositions move through cell-like rooms to explore themes of fear and dictatorial rule; accordingly, the film was banned in both the Soviet Bloc and Fascist Spain.

Ligia Branice (La jetée), the director’s then wife, co-stars in a surrealist masterpiece splendidly underlined by its use of Handel’s organ music.


8:45PM – LA MARGE
Walerian Borowczyk (1976) 89 mins R18+

In adapting André Pieyre de Mandiargues’ Prix Goncourt-winning novel, Borowczyk atypically made a film not just set contemporaneously with the time of its production but even quintessential to it. Sensuous yet strangely downbeat, this seldom-seen film—perhaps a function of licensing fees for an extraordinary soundtrack inclusive of Pink Floyd, Elton John and 10cc—anticipates and betters Gaspar Noé’s Love in rhyming pop and classical music with artfully shot scenes of ecstatic bodies, principally those of Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro and Emmanuelle’s Sylvia Kristel.

CTEQ ANNOTATION
The Desired Object of ‘La Marge’ by John Edmond.

June 22

7:00PM – THE BEAST

Walerian Borowczyk
 (1975) 104 mins R18+

An American heiress arrives in France to be wed to an impoverished, deformed French nobleman. She finds dark and mysterious secrets amongst the household and erotic, bestial yearnings awaken within her. Borowczyk’s transgressive riff on Prosper Mérimée’s novella began life as a scandalously previewed and jettisoned segment of Immoral Tales before being expanded into a feature. Dogged by controversy and censorship battles from the moment of its release, many audiences are distracted by the shockingly explicit content and miss the playfulness and perversely hedonistic glee Borowczyk brings to the material.

CTEQ ANNOTATION
The Nature of ‘The Beast’ Remains… Irrepressible! by Cerise Howard.


8:55PM – CABINET OF CURIOSITIES: THE SHORT WORKS OF WALERIAN BOROWCZYK
(1957–1969) 95 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

Before moving into feature filmmaking in the late 1960s, Borowczyk built a formidable reputation as a maker of short, disturbing, often-surreal animations and live-action works in Poland and France that demonstrated an extraordinary range of styles and preoccupations. This program features many of the key works of this stage of Borowczyk’s career including his exquisite collaborations with Jan Lenica (Once There Was, Dom) and Chris Marker (Les astronautes). It also includes several of the director’s most influential works including Angels’ Games; a film Terry Gilliam called one of the greatest animations ever made.

CTEQ ANNOTATION
Sleepless Satellites: Walerian Borowczyk’s Les astronautes by David Surman.

June 29

7:00PM – THE STRANGE CASE OF
 DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE

Walerian Borowczyk
 (1981) 95 mins R18+

In this macabre re-invention of Robert Louis Stevenson’s endlessly generative classic, Dr. Jekyll (the immortal Udo Kier) suckles the deep, sickly ecstasies of co-dependent, conspiratorial amour fou. Miss Osbourne (Marina Pierro) is here positioned as a “Surrealist Woman, one in a long line of ‘heroines of evil’ that Borowczyk celebrated” (Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin). Between these twin pillars of performative hysteria, Borowczyk works to find the correct temperature for a “contagion of delirium”, one that steeps its audience in the peculiarly feverish, fragmentary power of Euro-hybrid poetics. With Patrick Magee and Howard Vernon.

CTEQ ANNOTATION
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne by Alison Taylor.


8:45PM – THE STORY OF SIN
Walerian Borowczyk
 (1975) 124 mins M

Borowczyk’s adaptation of Polish writer Stefan Zeromski’s 19th-century novel makes obsessive use of lavish period detail in evoking fin de siècle Warsaw. The film is an ecstatically dark fantasy of an initially virginal woman pursuing a faithless love, while pursued herself by sexual predators across Europe—the more sordid details transcended by Grazyna Dlugolęcka’s psychologically plausible performance. Passionate, melodramatic and struck through with an unusual degree of menace, it was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

CTEQ ANNOTATION
The Story of a Sin by Simon Strong.

February 7–21
JEANNE MOREAU: THE FACE OF THE NOUVELLE VAGUE

February 28 – March 14
“I AM HERE AND I DON’T KNOW WHY”: THE FREE-FORM FILMMAKING OF JOHN CASSAVETES

March 21 – April 2
TWISTED NERVE: BRITISH PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR OF THE 1960s AND 1970s

April 9 – April 25
FRANÇOIS TRUFFAUT, CHILD OF THE CINEMA

May 2
GIRLS IN UNIFORM: LANDMARKS OF LESBIAN CINEMA

May 9
COLONIAL LEGACIES – THE VIEW FROM THERE. A COLLABORATION WITH THE HUMAN RIGHTS ARTS & FILM FESTIVAL.

May 16 – May 23
WITHOUT COMPROMISE: THOM ANDERSEN’S AMERICA

May 30 – June 13
PLAYING SOLO: THE SADLY BEAUTIFUL CAREER OF MONTGOMERY CLIFT

June 20 – July 4
THE STORY OF WOMEN: THE EXTRAORDINARY CAREER OF KINUYO TANAKA

July 11 – July 25
THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES: GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM AFTER CALIGARI

August 22 – September 5
BEYOND LEONE: THE RADICAL LAWLESSNESS OF THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN

September 12 – September 26
ORIGINAL SINS: RESISTANCE AND FEMINISM IN THE AVANT-GARDE CINEMA OF VĚRA CHYTILOVÁ

October 3
CONTESTING HISTORY: BICENTENNIAL LEGACIES

October 10 – October 31
ON DANGEROUS GROUND: IDA LUPINO, TRAILBLAZER

November 7 – November 21
ECHOES FROM TAIWAN: THE MAJOR WORKS OF EDWARD YANG

November 28 – December 5
ON BODY AND SOUL: THE PASSION ACCORDING TO AMIEL COURTIN-WILSON

December 12 – December 19
ANARCHY AND ECSTASY: THE INTERMEDIATE CINEMA OF DUŠAN MAKAVEJEV