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9 - 23 March 2018: Walerian Borowczyk: Obscure Pleasures


Master craftsman, Dadaist prankster, and unrepentant sensualist, Walerian Borowczyk spent half a century working at the juncture of fine art and cinema. Born in Poland during the 1920s, Borowczyk trained as a painter and sculptor before establishing himself first as a poster artist and later an animation filmmaker. Having relocated to France during the late 1950s, Borowczyk produced a succession of startling, often comic short films that were as innovative as they were provocative. When Borowczyk made the transition to feature films, he joined the ranks of the titans of world cinema.

Not only was Borowczyk a trailblazer for fine artists working in film but he also brought a keen, painterly eye to framing and editing objects, animals, and bodies. Expertly marrying film to both classical and electronic music, Borowczyk’s approach to cinema harked back to the silent days (Méliès, Keaton, Eisenstein) and even pre-cinema (Muybridge, chrono-photography, and zoetropes). From the outset, Borowczyk favored both fantasy and eroticism, tendencies in his work that became more pronounced with the relaxation of censorship. A sense of earthy humour masks a distinctly moral sensibility, eager to satirize the corruption of institutions, whether they be feudal, clerical, or bureaucratic.

Presented in collaboration with Friends of Walerian Borowczyk this programme focuses on the Polish artist’s early features alongside two shorts programmes, one of which is dedicated to his rarely screened art documentaries. These screenings are accompanied by an exhibition of Borowczyk’s graphic art, and a talk by Daniel Bird, co-producer of Arrow Academy’s Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection, co-founder of Friends of Walerian Borowczyk and author of Boro: Walerian Borowczyk, copies of which will be on sale throughout.

Programme 1: Story of Sin

Based on the novel by Stefan Żeromski, Story of Sin is Borowczyk’s singular Polish feature film. Casting a critical eye on the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, Story of Sin counts as Borowczyk’s most passionate film, a delirious melodrama that reaches an ecstatic pitch. read more

The Phonograph, Walerian Borowczyk, 1969, 6 min, Colour, Digital
Story of Sin, Walerian Borowczyk, 1975, 124 min, Colour, Digital

Programme 2: Walerian Borowczyk: Shorts

Walerian Borowczyk’s first decade as a filmmaker produced a dazzling array of shorts, pioneering both narrative strategies (Renaissance’s reverse-explosion) and stylistic elements (cutout and hand-painted animation), influencing artists as wide-ranging as collaborators Chris Marker and admirer Terry Gilliam. read more

The Astronauts, Walerian Borowczyk & Chris Marker, 1959, 12 min, B/W, Digital
The Concert, Walerian Borowczyk, 1962, 6 min, Colour, Digital
Grandma’s Encyclopedia, Walerian Borowczyk, 1963, 7 min, B/W, Digital
Renaissance, Walerian Borowczyk, 1963, 9 min, B/W, Digital
Holy Smoke!, Walerian Borowczyk, 1963, 10 min, Colour, Digital
Joachim’s Dictionary, Walerian Borowczyk, 1965, 9 min, Colour, Digtal
Scherzo Infernal, Walerian Borowczyk, 1984, 5 min, Colour, Digital

Programme 3: Theatre of Mr and Mrs Kabal

Set in a barren wasteland thinly populated by exotic flora and fauna, Borowczyk’s only animated feature (rendered in sparse, coarse, and, for the most part, monochrome graphics) serves as a stiff antidote to Disney’s saccharine whimsy. read more

Gavotte, Walerian Borowczyk, 1967, 12 min, Colour, Digital
Theatre of Mr and Mrs Kabal, Walerian Borowczyk, 1967, 80 min, Colour, Digital

Programme 4: Goto, Island of Love

A petty thief works his way up the absurd hierarchy of Goto, an archipelago cut off from civilization by a tumultuous earthquake. His dream is to possess Glossia, a stifled beauty trapped in a loveless marriage to a melancholic dictator. read more

Angels’ Games, Walerian Borowczyk, 1964, 12 min, Colour, Digital
Goto, Island of Love, Walerian Borowczyk, 1968, 93 min, B/W & Colour, Digital

Programme 5: Walerian Borowczyk: Documentaries

Borowczyk’s short documentaries, produced concurrently to his entry into the world of feature filmmaking, are formally radical and conceptually surreal, touching on sentient objects and unlikely eroticism. read more

Diptych, Walerian Borowczyk, 1967, 12 min, B/W, Digital
A Private Collection, Walerian Borowczyk, 1972, 12 min, B/W, Digital
Venus on the Half Shell, Walerian Borowczyk, 1975, 5 min, Colour, Digital
Letter from Paris, Walerian Borowczyk, 1976, 40 min, B/W, Digital
The Greatest Love of All Times, Walerian Borowczyk, 1977, 10 min, Colour, Digital
Happy Toy, Walerian Borowczyk, 1979, 3 min, Colour, Digital

Programme 6: Blanche

Borowczyk’s wife Ligia Branice gives a heartrending performances as Blanche, the young, beautiful wife to an aging, senile baron. When an amorous king pays a visit, not only does he fall under Blanche’s spell, but so does his page, the infamous philanderer Monsieur Bartolomeo. read more

Rosalie, Walerian Borowczyk, 1966, 15 min, B/W, Digital
Blanche, Walerian Borowczyk, 1971, 92 min, Colour, Digital

Many thanks to Daniel Bird, Friends of Walerian Borowczyk, and Arrow Academy for making this programme possible.

Boro: Walerian Borowczyk is published by Centre Georges Pompidou, Carlotta and Friends of Walerian Borowczyk:

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