Combustible Celluloid
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With: Pierre Brasseur, Ligia Branice, Jean-Pierre Andréani, Sirpa Lane, Lisbeth Hummel, Elisabeth Kaza, Pierre Benedetti, Guy Tréjan, Marina Pierro, Mathieu Carrière, Josy Bernard
Written by: Walerian Borowczyk
Directed by: Walerian Borowczyk
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 300
Date: 03/19/2013

The Walerian Borowczyk Collection (2006)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Born in Poland in 1923, filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk was a successful animator before moving to France and branching out into live-action filmmaking. Despite a long career and a few controversial hits, no one made a peep when he passed away just a few weeks ago. Cult Epics' new three-disc box set provides part of his legacy.

The first disc comes with an early feature film, Goto, Island of Love (1969), a bizarre parable that has some of the same energy of other films of the time, such as Fando & Lis, Weekend and Signs of Life. On an isolated island, which still operates under the rule of a cruel dictator, a prisoner is released and given the royal job of dogwalker and fly-catcher. He uses his new post -- as well as other devious means -- to advance through the ranks and to get to the dictator's wife. Borowczyk shoots this beautiful black-and-white film with square, blocky frames, animating the humans' movements against the quadrilateral backdrops. Nevertheless, as one of his early features, he hadn't yet learned to combine his artistry with storytelling that would keep viewers watching. (The title promises another one of Borowczyk's famous erotic adventures, but it's very tame.) The best thing about this first disc is the short animated film, Astronauts (1959), that brilliantly displays some of Borowczyk's early style.

The magnificent The Beast is the second title, and you can read more about it here.

The third title, Love Rites (1988), is also the final title in Borowczyk's career. A man picks up a woman on the subway and they spend the day together. He desires her and learns that she is a prostitute. After much talking and stalling, they go back to her place and she proceeds to scratch the daylights out of his skin. And that's really about it. Borowczyk builds up a palpable erotic longing during the first half, but quickly squanders it with arty asides and meaningless conversations. The Love Rites disc comes with an 87-minute director's cut and a 97-minute longer version.

DVD Details: The Cult Epics box also comes with extensive liner notes by Rayo Casablanca and a collection of postcards.

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