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Posted by on 3.6.2015

April 2-9

Features newly remastered classic and rare works from the

master of surrealist and erotic cinema, including The Beast;

Blanche; Goto, Island of Love; and Story of Sin

New York, NY (March 4, 2015) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today Obscure Pleasures: The Films of Walerian Borowczyk (April 2-9). Co-presented with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and The Cultural Services of the French Embassy, NY, the series will offer a rare opportunity to see the work of the controversial filmmaker on the big screen. These masterpieces of surrealist and erotic cinema, populated by a rogue’s gallery of infamous performers like Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Sylvia Kristel, and Paloma Picasso, feature explicit sexual content that often led them to be banned in several countries at the time of their release.

Co-curated by filmmaker and film scholar Daniel Bird, Obscure Pleasures: The Films of Walerian Borowczyk presents what could be considered an overdue look at Borowczyk’s career, highlighted by such signature films The Beast (1975), a pitch-black comic tale about a French aristocrat’s attempts to sell off his deformed son for sex in order to save the old man’s decrepit mansion; two films that starred his wife and muse, Ligia Branice, Blanche (1971), about a baron’s young wife who inspires he men around her to fall under her spell, and Goto, Island of Love (1968), a selection of the 1969 New York Film Festival, about a petty thief with the ambition to bed a dictator’s wife; and Story of Sin (1975), a nominee for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, which follows a young woman’s amorous pursuit of a married anthropology student.

The series also includes a sampling of documentaries on Borowczyk, directed by series co-curator Bird that sheds light on the life and unique career of the director, ranging from his early work with animation, his erotic feature films, and his artwork beyond the realm of cinema. Bird will also be on hand at selected screenings to discuss Borowczyk’s work, at length.

Bird has also compiled a collection of Polish movie posters that Borowczyk designed for other filmmakers in the 1950s, prior to his own directing career. After being presented in London’s famed art and performance space The Horse Hospital in 2014, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will exhibit a dozen specially selected posters from this collection in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Walter Reade Theater during the run of the retrospective. These beautiful and surreal pieces of movie artwork were created during the communist era as an alternative to banned U.S. publicity material. A box set of postcards of Borowczyk’s film posters will be available for purchase during the retrospective, as well as a “children’s book for adults” written and illustrated by Borowczyk, entitled Dumb Animals. Additional information about the series will be available at www.walerianborowczyk.com, as of March 16.

“An internationally known surrealist filmmaker described variously by critics as a

genius, a pornographer and a genius who also happened to be a pornographer.”
The New York Times

“One of the major artists of modern cinema.”
– David Thomson

Born in Poland during the 1920s, Borowczyk trained as a painter and sculptor before establishing himself first as one of the founders of the legendary Polish school of poster artists during the 1950s and later directing groundbreaking animation films in the 1960s. When Borowczyk made the transition to feature films, he joined the ranks of the titans of world cinema.

Not only was Borowczyk a trailblazer for fine artists working in film but he also brought a keen, painterly eye to framing and editing objects, animals, and bodies. Expertly marrying film to both classical and electronic music, Borowczyk’s approach to cinema harked back to the silent days (Méliès, Keaton, Eisenstein) and even pre-cinema (Muybridge, chrono-photography, and zoetropes). From the outset, Borowczyk favored both fantasy and eroticism, tendencies in his work that became more pronounced with the relaxation of censorship. A sense of earthy humor masks a distinctly moral sensibility, eager to satirize the corruption of institutions, whether they be feudal, clerical, or bureaucratic.

Arguably the most controversial aspect of Borowczyk’s filmography is his approach to women. While his gaze is undeniably male and unashamedly voyeuristic, Borowczyk’s heroines are far from shrinking violets, often ready to toss off their corsets and use their sexuality as a means of transcending social constraints, while the men are left dithering between conflicting desires for physical gratification and public respectability.

Special thanks to Filmoteka Narodowa, and Centre National du Cinéma et de l’image animée.

Screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street). Tickets and a discount package for the series will go on sale Thursday, March 12. Single screening tickets are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for Film Society members. Visit filmlinc.com for more information.


The Beast / La bête
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1975, DCP, 104m
French with English subtitles

Bestial dreams interrupt the venal plans of a French aristocrat attempting to save a crumbling mansion by marrying off his deformed son to a horny American heiress. Drawing on the legends surrounding the beast of Gévaudan, Prosper Mérimée’s novella Lokis and Freud’s Wolf Man, The Beast is an erotic black farce hell-bent on trampling every pretense of good taste. In The Beast, the only decorum and restraint is to be found in Scarlatti’s harpsichord music. New digital restoration!
Note: contains explicit sexual content.
Friday, April 3, 5:00pm & 9:15pm

Behind Convent Walls / Interno di un convento
Walerian Borowczyk, Italy, 1977, 35mm, 95m
Italian with English subtitles

Inspired by a passage in Stendhal's Promenades dans Rome, Borowczyk's first Italian production concerns the antics of a convent full of sexually repressed nuns. Deceptively frivolous, Borowczyk's film is nevertheless a serious exploration of the relationship between flesh and spirit. Likened to Boccaccio by Alberto Moravia, Behind Convent Walls features striking handheld cinematography by Luciano Tovoli and the final performance of Borowczyk's wife, Ligia Branice. Note: contains explicit sexual content.
Sunday, April 5, 2:30pm
Monday, April 6, 7:00pm

Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1971, DCP, 92m
French with English subtitles

Borowczyk’s wife Ligia Branice gives a heartrending performances as Blanche, the young, beautiful wife to an aging, senile baron (legendary Swiss actor Michel Simon). When an amorous king pays a visit, not only does he fall under Blanche’s spell, but so does his page, the infamous philanderer Monsieur Bartolomeo. Filmed by Borowczyk to resemble a Medieval fresco, Blanche also features stunning ancient musical arrangements drawn from the Carmina Burana song book. New digital restoration!
Friday, April 3, 3:00pm and 7:00pm

A Dazzling Imagination
This program of documentaries—all directed by series co-curator Daniel Bird—sheds light on the life and sui generis career of Borowczyk, ranging from his early animations, his erotic feature films, and his artwork beyond the realm of cinema. An edifying portrait of Borowczyk not just as a pioneering animator and a wildly imaginative stylist but also as an utterly unique and versatile artist.

The Profligate Door: Borowczyk’s Sound Sculptures
Daniel Bird, UK, 2014, DCP, 13m

Blow Ups: Borowczyk’s Works on Paper
Daniel Bird, UK, 2014, DCP, 5m

Film Is Not a Sausage: Borowczyk and the Short Film
Daniel Bird, UK, 2014, DCP, 28m

Obscure Pleasures: A Portrait of Walerian Borowczyk
Daniel Bird, UK/Poland, 2013, DCP, 63m

Thursday, April 2, 4:30pm & 9:15pm

Goto, Island of Love / Goto, l’île d’amour
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1968, DCP, 93m
French with English subtitles

A petty thief works his way up the absurd hierarchy of Goto, an archipelago cut off from civilization by a tumultuous earthquake. His dream is to possess Glossia, a stifled beauty trapped in a loveless marriage to a melancholic dictator. Originally banned in Communist Poland and Franco’s Spain, Goto, Island of Love features bizarre sights, poetic flashes of color, and the stunning deployment of Handel’s organ concerto. An original selection of the 1969 NYFF. New digital restoration!
Saturday, April 4, 3:45pm & 7:30pm

Immoral Tales / Contes immoraux
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1974, DCP, 103m
French with English subtitles

Four episodes, each rolling back further into the annals of history, bound only by a maxim by La Rochefoucauld: Love pleases more by the ways in which it shows itself. A veritable cavalcade of depravity, Immoral Tales features cosmic fellatio, transcendental masturbation, blood-drenched lesbianism, and papal incest. A box-office smash in France, the film spent much of the 1970s embroiled in censorship problems around the world. With appearances by Paloma Picasso and a 23-year-old Fabrice Luchini.
New digital restoration! Note: contains explicit sexual content.
Sunday, April 5, 4:30pm & 9:30pm

Immoral Women / Les Héroïnes du mal
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1979, 35mm, 109m
French with English subtitles

A film in three parts that brings together tales of women in different historical epochs who use their sexuality to triumph over the men that oppress them. In the first, set in Renaissance Rome, a baker’s daughter (Borowczyk muse Marina Pierro) models for a Vatican artist and pits him against a grotesque moneylender. The second episode charts the revenge of a Belle Époque teenager (Gaëlle Legrand) when her parents decide that her relationship with her pet bunny is too close for comfort. Finally, in modern-day Paris, a woman (Pascale Christophe) is kidnapped, and her husband proves less loyal than her beloved Doberman. Borowczyk brazenly explores motifs of bestiality, bourgeois moralism, and wanton revenge. Note: contains explicit sexual content.
Thursday, April 9, 4:45pm & 9:15pm

Love Rites / Cérémonie d’amour
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1987, 35mm, 100m
French with English subtitles

Borowczyk’s final feature returns with a vengeance to a signature theme—emasculation. Vain clothing buyer Hugo (Mathieu Carrière) meets beautiful Myriam (Marina Pierro) on the Metro and pursues her, discovering to his delight that she’s a prostitute. The crafty Myriam, of course, has more in mind for their encounter than smug Hugo bargained for. Though perhaps less graphic than Borowczyk’s best-known works, Love Rites nevertheless turns the sexual tables with perverse exactitude. Note: contains explicit sexual content.
Tuesday, April 7, 4:45pm
Wednesday, April 8, 7:00pm

Walerian Borowczyk, France/Italy/Germany, 1980, 35mm, 95m
French with English subtitles

Based on the Lulu plays by Frank Wedekind (which formed the basis for G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box), Borowczyk presents a terse, stripped-back account of the eponymous anti-heroine. Filmed in a series of stylized sets designed by the director himself, Lulu is as cool as an erotic fantasy played out inside a doll’s house. Anne Bennent puts her stamp on the role immortalized by Louise Brooks, and Udo Kier memorably turns up as Jack the Ripper. Note: contains explicit sexual content.
Tuesday, April 7, 9:15pm
Thursday, April 9, 7:00pm

Private Collections / Collections privées
Walerian Borowczyk, Just Jaeckin & Shuji Terayama, France/Japan, 1978, 35mm, 100m
English, French, and Japanese with English subtitles

This portmanteau film curated by legendary French director Pierre Braunberger, featuring segments by some of the top erotic filmmakers of the 1970s, includes Borowczyk’s “L’armoire,” an adaptation of “The Wardrobe” by Guy de Maupassant. His account of a depressed young man and the dancer/courtesan he hopes will cure his loneliness exhibits psychological insight along with the director’s standard visual flair and signature touches of depravity. Note: contains explicit sexual content.
Wednesday, April 8, 4:45pm & 9:15pm

Short Films

This program showcases a key section of Borowczyk’s career: his innovative animated short films, which are formally radical, conceptually surreal, and arguably his most influential work.

Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1963, 9m

Borowczyk’s signature work, Renaissance features wrecked handmade objects gradually reconstructing themselves into a still-life composition before exploding once more. Dedicated to Hy Hirsh (the American photographer, cameraman, and abstract filmmaker who died prematurely of a heart attack in 1961), the objects (which include a doll, a stuffed owl, and a trumpet) in Renaissance serve as a concentrated microcosm of a larger, off-screen drama. A frequently humorous and sometimes ominous soundtrack (not to mention a brief flash of color) makes Renaissance one of Borowczyk’s most perfect films.

The Astronauts / Les astronauts
Walerian Borowczyk & Chris Marker, France, 1959, 12m

Borowczyk’s first professional film outside of Poland, The Astronauts takes the manipulated photograph technique of The School to dizzying new heights. The first of several Borowczyk films produced by Anatole Dauman, The Astronauts is credited as being co-directed by the late, legendary cine-essayist Chris Marker. According to Marker, his main contribution to Borowczyk’s film was the loan of his owl, Anabase. Fellow animator and sometime Borowczyk collaborator Michel Boschet plays the lead role in a film that invokes the wonder of Georges Méliès and the slapstick of Buster Keaton.

House / Dom
Walerian Borowczyk & Jan Lenica, Poland, 1959, 11m

A young woman inside a house succumbs to a succession of daydreams, fantasies, and nightmares. Arguably Borowczyk and Lenica’s masterpiece, House served as Borowczyk and Lenica’s ticket to the West. The result is a veritable compendium of animation techniques, which both look back at the European avant-garde of the 1920s (Cocteau, Richter, Ray, Ernst, Calder, Duchamp, etc.) while paving the way for the likes of latter-day Czech surrealist Jan Švankmajer. It also features a remarkable electro-acoustic soundtrack by Włodzimierz Kotoński.

Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1966, 15m
French with English subtitles

Of all his films, Borowczyk’s favorite was Rosalie. Based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant, Borowczyk relates the plight of a servant girl who killed and buried her child in the garden. Featuring a profoundly touching performance by Ligia Branice, once again Borowczyk uses animated objects to relate action indirectly. An overexposed, chiaroscuro image gives the proceedings an ethereal quality halfway between one of Beckett’s monologues and David Lynch’s Eraserhead.

Diptych / Diptyque
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1967, 12m
French with English subtitles

Diptych stands in many ways as the cornerstone of Borowczyk’s inimitable approach to cinema. Here, he presents two seemingly distinct “panels.” In the first, we see an old farmer, accompanied by his knackered dog, riding a clapped-out jalopy back home. Shot handheld with direct sound in grainy black and white, it makes a stark contrast to the second panel, which features a succession of tableaux vivants in startling colors, featuring houseplants and kittens playing against an aria from Bizet’s Carmen. While total opposites both in terms of form and style, the two panels nevertheless constitute a unified whole.

A Private Collection / Une collection particulière
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1973, 12m
French with English subtitles

A Private Collection is not just a documentary on antiquated erotic paraphernalia but rather a description and reflection on predominantly Western sexual mores. Featuring both a commentary and the guiding hands of surrealist writer André Pieyre de Mandiargues, Borowczyk playfully switches between visual media: perverted sculpture, clandestine painting, Belle Époque photography, a magic lantern show, a cartoon, and archival film.

Joachim’s Dictionary / Le dictionnaire de Joachim
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1965, 9m

Based on a sparse, singular design by Laurence Demaria (Ligia Branice), Joachim defines 26 words, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. As with, Grandma’s Encyclopedia, Borowczyk offers a succession of visual definitions that suggest a doomed attempt at mastering the absurdities of the world. Frequently hilarious, Joachim’s Dictionary is Borowczyk at his most anarchic.

Once Upon a Time / Byl sobie raz
Walerian Borowczyk & Jan Lenica, Poland, 1957, 9m

While not the first cut-out animation, this is without a doubt one of the most innovative. In effect, Borowczyk and Lenica transformed the economy, wit, and intelligence of the Polish poster into cinema. It is also notable for a groundbreaking electro-acoustic soundtrack courtesy of the Experimental Studio of Polish Radio.

Requited Sentiments / Nagrodzone uczucie
Walerian Borowczyk & Jan Lenica, Poland, 1957, 8m

Borowczyk and Lenica’s second collaboration is a politically correct romance told through the paintings of Jan Płaskociński. Playful, witty, and ironic, Requited Sentiments is augmented by a rousing score courtesy of the Warsaw Gasworks Brass Orchestra.

Angels’ Games / Les Jeux des Anges
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1964, 12m

A brutal, chilling, and frequently erotic evocation of concentration-camp horror, named by Terry Gilliam as one of the 10 greatest animated films of all time.

Tuesday, April 7, 7:00pm

Story of Sin / Dzieje grzechu
Walerian Borowczyk, Poland, 1975, 35mm, 124m
Polish with English subtitles

Based on the novel by Stefan Żeromski, Story of Sin is Borowczyk’s singular Polish feature film. Grażyna Długołęcka plays Ewa Pobratyńska, the doomed heroine whose passion for a married anthropology student takes her on a perilous journey across early-20th-century Europe. Casting a critical eye on the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, Story of Sin counts as Borowczyk’s most passionate film, a delirious melodrama that reaches an ecstatic pitch. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Note: contains explicit sexual content.
Sunday, April 5, 6:45pm
Monday, April 6, 9:00pm

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne / Docteur Jekyll et les femmes
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1981, DCP, 95m
French with English subtitles

Taking its cue from the legend that Robert Louis Stevenson’s cocaine-fueled first draft of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was burned by his prudish American wife on account of its sexual excess, Borowczyk sets up a chamber piece spanning just one night, in which Henry Jekyll (Udo Kier) plunges into a bath of chemicals only for him to emerge as the monstrously endowed Mr. Hyde. A masterpiece of surrealist cinema, Borowczyk’s film mischievously flits between violent farce, bloody delirium, and erotic frenzy. New digital restoration! Note: contains explicit sexual content.
Thursday, April 2, 2:45pm & 7:00pm

The Streetwalker / La Marge
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1976, 35mm, 95m
French with English subtitles

An uptight salesman loses himself in the arms of an ethereal prostitute in a headlong rush toward the end of the night. Featuring Sylvia Kristel’s best performance and a stoic turn by Warhol favorite Joe Dallesandro, Borowczyk’s most atypical offering rivals Taxi Driver in terms of rendering urban life as a seedy inferno. The film’s eclectic soundtrack includes 10cc, Chopin, Elton John, and Pink Floyd. Note: contains explicit sexual content.
Saturday, April 4, 9:30pm

Theatre of Mr. and Mrs. Kabal / Théâtre de Monsieur & Madame Kabal
Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1967, DCP, 73m
French with English subtitles

Bizarre, grotesque, and yet strangely moving, Borowczyk’s existential soap opera eschews dialogue (for the most part) and conventional narrative to evoke the highs and lows of married life. Set in a barren wasteland thinly populated by exotic flora and fauna, Borowczyk’s only animated feature (rendered in sparse, coarse, and, for the most part, monochrome graphics) serves as a stiff antidote to Disney’s saccharine whimsy. New digital restoration!
Saturday, April 4, 2:00pm & 5:45pm

Public Screening Schedule

Thursday, April 2
4:30PM A Dazzling Imagination (109m)
9:15PM A Dazzling Imagination (109m)

Friday, April 3
3:00PM  BLANCHE (92m)
5:00PM  THE BEAST (104m)
7:00PM  BLANCHE (92m)
9:15PM  THE BEAST (104m)

Saturday, April 4

Sunday, April 5
4:30PM  IMMORAL TALES (103m)
6:45PM  STORY OF SIN (124m)
9:30PM  IMMORAL TALES (103m)

Monday, April 6
9:00PM  STORY OF SIN (124m)

Tuesday, April 7
4:45PM  LOVE RITES (100m)
7:00PM  Short Films (109m)
9:15PM  LULU (95m)

Wednesday, April 8
7:00PM  LOVE RITES (100m)

Thursday, April 9
4:45PM  IMMORAL WOMEN (109m)
7:00PM  LULU (95m)
9:15PM  IMMORAL WOMEN (109m)

Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize established and emerging filmmakers, support important new work, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility, and understanding of the moving image. The Film Society produces the renowned New York Film Festival, a curated selection of the year’s most significant new film work, and presents or collaborates on other annual New York City festivals including Dance on Camera, Film Comment Selects, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, NewFest, New York African Film Festival, New York Asian Film Festival, New York Jewish Film Festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema and Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. In addition to publishing the award-winning Film Comment magazine, the Film Society recognizes an artist's unique achievement in film with the prestigious Chaplin Award, whose 2015 recipient is Robert Redford. The Film Society’s state-of-the-art Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, located at Lincoln Center, provide a home for year-round programs and the New York City film community.

The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from American Airlines, The New York Times, HBO, Stella Artois, The Kobal Collection, Variety, Trump International Hotel and Tower, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts.

For more information, visit www.filmlinc.com, follow @filmlinc on Twitter, and download the FREE Film Society app, now available for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android devices.

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