Close Up

13 March 2018: 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 (cut-out and hand-painted animation), influencing artists as wide-ranging as collaborator Chris Marker and admirer Terry Gilliam.

The Astronauts
Walerian Borowczyk & Chris Marker
1959 | 12 min | B/W | Digital

Borowczyk’s first professional film outside of Poland, The Astronauts takes the manipulated photograph technique of The School to dizzying new heights. The first of several Borowczyk films produced by Anatole Dauman, The Astronauts is credited as being co-directed by the late, legendary cine-essayist Chris Marker. According to Marker, his main contribution to Borowczyk’s film was the loan of his owl, Anabase. Fellow animator and sometime Borowczyk collaborator Michel Boschet plays the lead role in a film that invokes the wonder of Georges Méliès and the slapstick of Buster Keaton.

The Concert
Walerian Borowczyk
1962 | 6 min | Colour | Digital

Ostensibly a film of a concert given by the round, unassuming Monsieur Kabal and his spiky, terrifying wife, it’s actually a cover for their frequent attempts at causing each other extreme physical harm.

Grandma’s Encyclopedia
Walerian Borowczyk
1963 | 7 min | B/W | Digital

The first three letters of the alphabet, brought to life through the animation of cut-outs from a Victorian-era reference book.

Walerian Borowczyk
1963 | 9 min | B/W | Digital

Borowczyk’s signature work, Renaissance features wrecked handmade objects gradually reconstructing themselves into a still-life composition before exploding once more. Dedicated to Hy Hirsh (the American photographer, cameraman, and abstract filmmaker who died prematurely of a heart attack in 1961), the objects (which include a doll, a stuffed owl, and a trumpet) in Renaissance serve as a concentrated microcosm of a larger, off-screen drama. A frequently humorous and sometimes ominous soundtrack (not to mention a brief flash of colour) makes Renaissance one of Borowczyk’s most perfect films.

Holy Smoke!
Walerian Borowczyk
1963 | 10 min | Colour | Digital

A very pompous cigar smoker reminisces about the good old days when the lower classes knew their place and stayed away from cigars meant only for the privileged. However, after he and his society for cigar smokers watch an advert by British tobacco importers W.D. & H.O. Wills explaining their successive methods of cigar-making, his elitist ideals are shaken.

Joachim’s Dictionary
Walerian Borowczyk
1965 | 9 min | Colour | Digital

Based on a sparse, singular design by Laurence Demaria (Ligia Branice), Joachim defines 26 words, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. As with, Grandma’s Encyclopedia, Borowczyk offers a succession of visual definitions that suggest a doomed attempt at mastering the absurdities of the world. Frequently hilarious, Joachim’s Dictionary is Borowczyk at his most anarchic.

Scherzo Infernal
Walerian Borowczyk
1984 | 5 min | Colour | Digital

A harshly sensual world in the fiery inferno of Hell. Big-breasted tailed demoness & demons whose tails are phalluses strut, rut, reproduce, nurse, & generally show off amindst the flames. An angelic prostitute confronts God. All voices, male or female, are done by Yves Robert in his own voice, which has a disturbing effect all its own.

Part of our season on Walerian Borowczyk