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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:

BIOGRAPHY

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.
KEVIN LYONS

GENRE FILMOGRAPHY

1957
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)

1958
Dom
(script, director, animator, designer)
La casa - Italian title
House
Talo
- Finnish title

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

1959
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)

1962
Le concert de M et Mme Kabal
(script, director)

1963
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)

1964
Les jeux des anges
(script, director)
The Games of Angels - US title

1965
Le dictionnaire de Joachim
(script, director)

1967
20.000 ans à la française
(animator)
The French Way of Looking at It - UK title

Gavotte (script, director)

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

1968
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

1969
Le phonographe
(script, director)

1974
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

1975
La bête
(script, director, editor)
The Beast - US title
The Beast in Heat
Bestia
- 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

1980
Lulu
(script, director, production designer)
Los amantes de Lulú - Spanish title
Lulu - Finnish title

1981
Docteur Jekyll et les femmes
(director, production designer)
Bloodlust
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

1984
Scherzo infernal
(director)

NON-GENRE FILMOGRAPHY

1946
Mois d'août
(script, director)

1953
Glowa
(script, director, photography, editor)

1954
Atelier de Fernand Léger
(script, director, photography, editor)

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

1955
Jesien
(script, director, photography, editor)
L'automne - French title

1966
Rosalie
(script, director)

1967
Diptyque
(script, director)

1971
Blanche
(script, director, editor, production designer)
Blanche - laulu viattomuudesta ja pahasta äkillisestä kuolemasta - Finnish title

1973
Une collection particulière
(script, director)

1975
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

1976
La marge
(director)
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

1977
L'amour monstre de tous les temps
(director)

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

1979
L'armoire
(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

1983
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

1986
Série rose: Un traitement mérité
(director) *

1987
Emmanuelle V
(script, director)
Emmanuelle 5 - Finnish / UK video title

1988
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

1990
Série rose: Almanach des adresses des demoiselles de Paris
(director, editor) *

 


Last Updated: 1 January, 2009

 


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