Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Borowczyk Has Died

I've just learned from Greencine Daily the awful news that Walerian Borowczyk has left our world. He was the author (with Jan Lenica) of numerous animated films that I have not yet seen. He co-directed one film in 1959 with Chris Marker that I hope to see one day. I have seen his most famous film, The Beast (1974 I think), which did nothing for me, as well as Story of Sin (1975), which had the taint of quiet "T-of-Q" sterility to it despite passages of real verve. But not all of the films of Borowczyk's are ones I haven't seen or don't love. His film La Marge (1974; with Joe Dallesandro and Sylvia Kristel) haunts my thoughts still, as does Love Rites (1988), and most of all Blanche (1971), which deserves to be named with Perceval (Rohmer, '78) and Lancelot du lac (Bresson, '74). What demarcates Borowczyk from the rest of the cultish-erotic-bloody crowd is his true modernist attention to the forcefulness and presence of his images, the way he pushes his stories not into the merely dreamlike (a fictive signifier, and justification, for haziness and transcience) but into the unsettling realm of all out oneiric abandon--his cinema at its greatest is as mysterious and inscrutable, as keen and singular, as Bresson.

12 comments:

Adrian said...

Good tribute to a really overlooked filmmaker, Zach. Many of his films are quite extraordinary, and his style is utterly unique. But I did stumble upon the Bresson comparison once before: a local critic here in Melbourne called THE STREETWALKER (which was released in a softcore porn cinema!) as "Bresson on aphrodisiac"! But, like Melville, old Boroc would doubtless have said: "It is not I who am Bressonian, but Bresson who is Borowczykian"! There is little overt trace of his influence in contemporary cinema, except for the work of the Quay brothers - who discovered his shorts and GOTO, ISLE OF LOVE through their teacher at art school: Raymond Durgnat. Film history moves in mysterious ways ...

Maxim de Winter said...

Try to see his 'Docteur Jekyll et les Femmes' - it's very hard to find but well worth the search. Typical that one of this undeservedly obscure director's best works languishes in obscurity while his lesser, softcore efforts have been given beautiful DVD reissues.

Zach Campbell said...

Borowczyk's day of vindication will come. Especially if I have anything to say about it. It's just to bad that he won't be around to see or hear of it ...

Michael said...

I'm writing a Borowczyk eulogy for Sight & Sound at this very moment - it should be in next month's issue.

The deadline's Monday 20th, which gives me enough time to rewatch a fair chunk of his output beforehand - though I've been lucky enough to have seen much of it already (including most of the shorts). Docteur Jekyll is indeed extraordinary - I've yet to see an uncut print, but even the version that briefly played in London in 1984 was an eye-opener.

I think Adrian's right about the Quays being just about the only current filmmakers who are openly influenced by Borowczyk, but Terry Gilliam has spoken warmly of his early work, and there's enough of a thematic overlap with Jan Svankmajer's films (especially the fetishistic treatment of ancient, visibly decaying objects) to suggest that their paths may have crossed at some point.

Michael said...

I've just posted a first attempt at a Borowczyk DVD catalogue on GreenCine.

You might be surprised to learn (I certainly was!) about the range of stuff that's available - including many of the major animated shorts (the Chris Marker collaboration is Les Astronautes, included as an extra on two DVDs).

A potential downside is that most of the DVDs are European (Region 2 PAL) and the French and Italian ones don't have an English option (though many of the shorts have no dialogue). But the situation is a lot better than I'd assumed a week or so ago.

Zach Campbell said...

Thanks for the info, Michael! I'll keep an eye out for S&S.

Michael said...

I'm happy to confirm that the Sight & Sound piece has been accepted, so it should appear in the next issue (April 2006 coverdate, probably out by mid-March).

Dan said...

I continue to live in order to see an uncut edition of the fantastic Docteur Jekyll et les Femmes. Hopefully someone will stick his early animations on the DVD as extras. Some of his early shorts and animations can be seen for free on www.ubu.com

Anonymous said...

If you torrent, check Pirate Bay for an excellent, uncut (as far as I can tell) Docteur Jekyll.

Winstrol said...

It is very sad when talented people die and never will be able to make new work

viagra online said...

It's very sad that Borowczyk died because he has admired and appreciated by many people. He was very good at producing famous animated series. I know many people are going to miss him.

Magdalene said...

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