Walerian Borowczyk (1923 - 2006)

Date of Birth: 2 September 1923
Place of Birth: Kwilicz (near Poznan), Poland
Date of Death: 3 February 2006
Place of Death:
Also Known As:


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.


Byl sobie raz
(script, director, animator, designer)
Il était une fois - French title
Once There Was - US title

Dni ostwiaty (1957)

Nagrodzone uczucia (script, director)
Requited Feelings - UK title
Le sentiment recompensé - French title

Strep-tease (1957)
Strip Tease

Sztandar mlodych (script, director, animator)

(script, director, animator, designer)
La casa - Italian title
- Finnish title

Szkola (script, director)
L'école - French title
La scuola - Italian title

Les astronautes
(script, director, animator, designer)
Gli astronauti - Italian title
The Astronauts

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)

Le concert de M et Mme Kabal
(script, director)

L'encyclopédie de grand-maman en 13 Volumes: Volume 1 - A, B, C
(script, director, designer)

Holy Smoke (script, director)

Renaissance (script, director, animator, designer)

Les jeux des anges
(script, director)
The Games of Angels - US title

Le dictionnaire de Joachim
(script, director)

20.000 ans à la française
The French Way of Looking at It - UK title

Gavotte (script, director)

Théâtre de M et Mme Kabal (script, director, sound, production designer)

Goto, l'île d'amour
(script, director)
Goto - kärlekens ö - Swedish title
Goto, isla del amor - Spanish title
Goto, Island of Love
Goto, l'isola dell'amore
- Italian title
A Ilha do Amor - Portuguese title

Le phonographe
(script, director)

Contes immoraux
(script / dialogue, director, editor, art director)
Contos Imorais - Portuguese title
Cuentos inmorales - Spanish title
Erkölcstelen mesék - Hungarian title
Immoral Tales
Moraalittomia tarinoita
- Finnish title
Omoraliska historier - Swedish title
I racconti immorali di Borowczyk - Italian title
Unmoralische Geschichten - West German title

La bête
(script, director, editor)
The Beast - US title
The Beast in Heat
- Polish title
La bestia - Italian / Spanish title
Das Biest - West German title
Death's Ecstacy
O Monstro
- Portuguese title
Pedon vallassa - Finnish title
Peto - Finnish title

(script, director, production designer)
Los amantes de Lulú - Spanish title
Lulu - Finnish title

Docteur Jekyll et les femmes
(director, production designer)
Dr Jekyll and His Women
- US title
Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne
Nel profondo del delirio
- Italian title
The Blood of Doctor Jekyll
The Bloodbath of Doctor Jekyll
- UK video title
The Experiment - UK title
Tri Jekyll ja mr Hyde - Finnish title
Walerian Borowczyk: Tri Jekyll & Mr Hyde - Finnish title

Scherzo infernal


Mois d'août
(script, director)

(script, director, photography, editor)

Atelier de Fernand Léger
(script, director, photography, editor)

Photographies vivantes (script, director, photography, editor)
Fotografie viventi - Italian title

(script, director, photography, editor)
L'automne - French title

(script, director)

(script, director)

(script, director, editor, production designer)
Blanche - laulu viattomuudesta ja pahasta äkillisestä kuolemasta - Finnish title

Une collection particulière
(script, director)

Brief von Paris
(script, director)

Dzieje grzechu (script, director)
Historia de un pecado - Spanish title
Storia di un peccato - Italian title
Story of a Sin
Synnin tarina
- Finnish title

La marge
A Margem - Portuguese title
Emmanuelle '77
Flickan från Rue S:t Denis
- Swedish title
Il margine - Italian title
Una mujer de la vida - Spanish title
The Streetwalker

L'amour monstre de tous les temps

Interno di un convento (script, director, editor)
Behind Convent Walls
Freiras Perversas
- Portuguese title
Intérieur d'un couvent - French title
Interior de un convento - Spanish title
Salainen puutarha - Finnish title
Sex Life in a Convent
Unmoralische Novizinnen
- West German title
Within a Cloister - US video title

(script, director)

Collections privées (director (L'armoire))
Yksityiset kokoelmat - Finnish title

Les héroïnes du mal (script, director)
As Heroínas do Mal - Portuguese title
Heroines of Evil
Heroines of Pain
Immoral Women
- US title
Pahuuden jumalattaret - Finnish title
Three Immoral Women
Tre donne immorali?
- Italian title
Tres mujeres inmorales - Spanish title
Unmoralische Engel - West German title

Ars amandi
(script, director, photography, editor)
Ars Amandi - Die Kunst der Liebe - West German title
Ars Amandi - L'arte di amare - Italian title
L'art d'aimer - French title
Arte de Amar - Brazilian title
El arte de amar - Spanish title

Série rose: Un traitement mérité
(director) *

Emmanuelle V
(script, director)
Emmanuelle 5 - Finnish / UK video title

Cérémonie d'amour
(script, director)
Cerimónia de Amor - Portuguese title
Königin der Nacht - West German title
Love Rites - UK title
Queen of the Night - US title
Rites of Love

Série rose: Almanach des adresses des demoiselles de Paris
(director, editor) *


Last Updated: 1 January, 2009


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