TRIVIA | PRESS | QUOTES
Walerian Borowczyk (1923 - 2006)
Date of Birth: 2 September 1923
Love them or loathe them, the films of Polish animator-turned-art / sexploitation-director Walerian Borowczyk are certainly unique. Born on 2 September 1923 in Kwilcz, Poland, Borowczyk studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, initially planning to pursue a career as an artist. His works were exhibited in several Polish galleries before beginning the slow process of appearing abroad, and in 1953, his lithographs won him Poland's National Prize. By this time, he'd already started dabbling with short films and winning the National Prize found him much in demand designing posters for Polish films.
His career in films really kicked off in 1957 when he met and began working with animator Jan Lenica, together creating several well-received animated shorts. In 1960, Borowczyk relocated to France, where he spent the rest of his life, and where he continued to create excellent if often difficult animated shorts that traded in dark surrealism and often cruel satire. He employed a wide range of techniques, from photo-montages to object animation, and from traditional cel animation to the pinscreen technique pioneered by Alexandre Alexeieff and his wife Claire Parker. Among the real gems of this period are the comic Les astronautes (1959) (co-directed by Chris Marker of La jetée (1962)), the subtly disquieting Les jeux des anges (1964) and the stop motion Renaissance (1963).
In the late 1960s, Borowczyk began making live action features, beginning with the political fable Goto, l'île d'amour (1968). On all of his life-action work, Borowczyk acted as both writer and director and frequently designed and edited the films too. From this point on, Borowczyk would concenmtrate almost exclusively on live-action, returning to animation only once, in 1984 with Scherzo infernal. Blanche followed in 1971 with Dzieje grzechu / Story of Sin (1975) finding Borowczyk back home in Poland for the only time in his live-action career.
His arthouse breakthrough came with in 1974 with Contes immoraux / Immoral Tales, an anthology of four erotic tales that pushed the envelope of public acceptability at the time. It featured in one of its segments, an adaptation of the Erzsébet Báthory story, which had already reached the screen in the likes of Hammer's Countess Dracula (1971) and Jorge Grau's Ceremonia Sangrienta / Legend of Blood Castle (1973).
In 1975, Borowczyk directed La bête / The Beast, a visually stunning erotic horror fable that met censorship difficulties almost everywhere it played. Of his live-action work, it's probably his best known and most widely seen thanks to it having been embraced by horror fandom as well as the arthouse crowd who flocked to his other works. Borowczyk continued in a horror vein with Lulu (1980), which featured Jack the Ripper, and a sexually charged adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the very odd Docteur Jekyll et les femmes (1981).
Sadly, by this time, Borowczyk's career had become somewhat erratic and his vest work was clearly behind him - in 1987 he was reduced to helming the quite awful Emmanuelle V and, although 1988's Cérémonie d'amour saw him reunited with his muse Marina Pierro (who had appeared in Interno di un convento / Behind Convent Walls (1977), Les héroïnes du mal / Immoral Women (1979), Docteur Jekyll et les femmes and Ars amandi (1983) as well as Jean Rollin's masterpiece La morte vivante (1982)) it wasn't a patch on his earlier work.
Cérémonie d'amour was Borowczyk's last
film - he returned to his first love, painting, and died in his adopted
France in early 2006 of cardiac complications. His best work remains
his often startling and always visually arresting animated shorts although
almost all of his live-action films have some merits to them. Despite
his apparent disinterest in narratives and even his actors (he apparently
spent most of his time arranging lighting, props and scenery and barely
seemed to bother with his cast), his films are always of interest. They're
certainly unique, mixing a fairy tale ambience with highly provocative,
arguably pornographic imagery and a painterly eye for detail into films
that are identifiably his own and deserving of at least one viewing.
Dni ostwiaty (1957)
uczucia (script, director)
Sztandar mlodych (script, director, animator)
La boîte á musique (script, director, animator, designer)
La foule (script, director, animator, designer)
Le magicien (director, photography, editor)
Terra Incognita (director, photographs)
La téte (director, animator, designer)
Holy Smoke (script, director)
Renaissance (script, director, animator, designer)
Gavotte (script, director)
Théâtre de M et Mme Kabal (script, director, sound, production designer)
Photographies vivantes (script, director, photography,
Dzieje grzechu (script, director)
Interno di un convento (script, director, editor)
Collections privées (director (L'armoire))
Les héroïnes du mal (script, director)
Last Updated: 1 January, 2009
All text on this page © 2000 - 2009 EOFFTV