Lincoln Center to Host Walerian Borowczyk Retrospective
A rare opportunity to see the work of the controversial filmmaker on the big screen in NYC.
Published on March 13, 2015 | Filed under News
Walerian Borowczyk

Last year, Arrow put out a mammoth boxed set for the films of Borowczyk with new restorations and a ton of supplements. Anxiously awaiting these new transfers to hit the US, I was made very happy when IFC Midnight put out The Beast and Immoral Tales in theaters and on VOD recently. But where were the rest? Luckily, after great series on John Waters and Radley Metzger, Lincoln Center are shining some light – a lot of light – on another practitioner of sleaze and Borowczyk is getting his US due.

The series will run April 2nd – 9th and will include pretty much everything – that I can tell – that the filmmaker made, as well as new documentaries about his work and life. It’s an exhaustive series and a great time to be a fan of Borowczyk. All films will be screened in Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade theater and tickets and showtimes can be found at their website. Press release follows:

New York, NY (March 4, 2015) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today Obscure Pleasures: The Films of Walerian Borowczyk ( April 2-9). Co-presented with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and The Cultural Services of the French Embassy, NY, the series will offer a rare opportunity to see the work of the controversial filmmaker on the big screen. These masterpieces of surrealist and erotic cinema, populated by a rogue’s gallery of infamous performers like Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Sylvia Kristel, and Paloma Picasso, feature explicit sexual content that often led them to be banned in several countries at the time of their release.

Co-curated by filmmaker and film scholar Daniel Bird, Obscure Pleasures: The Films of Walerian Borowczyk presents what could be considered an overdue look at Borowczyk’s career, highlighted by such signature films The Beast (1975), a pitch-black comic tale about a French aristocrat’s attempts to sell off his deformed son for sex in order to save the old man’s decrepit mansion; two films that starred his wife and muse, Ligia Branice, Blanche (1971), about a baron’s young wife who inspires he men around her to fall under her spell, and Goto, Island of Love (1968), a selection of the 1969 New York Film Festival, about a petty thief with the ambition to bed a dictator’s wife; and Story of Sin (1975), a nominee for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, which follows a young woman’s amorous pursuit of a married anthropology student.

The series also includes a sampling of documentaries on Borowczyk, directed by series co-curator Bird that sheds light on the life and unique career of the director, ranging from his early work with animation, his erotic feature films, and his artwork beyond the realm of cinema. Bird will also be on hand at selected screenings to discuss Borowczyk’s work, at length.

Bird has also compiled a collection of Polish movie posters that Borowczyk designed for other filmmakers in the 1950s, prior to his own directing career. After being presented in London’s famed art and performance space The Horse Hospital in 2014, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will exhibit a dozen specially selected posters from this collection in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Walter Reade Theater during the run of the retrospective. These beautiful and surreal pieces of movie artwork were created during the communist era as an alternative to banned U.S. publicity material. A box set of postcards of Borowczyk’s film posters will be available for purchase during the retrospective, as well as a “children’s book for adults” written and illustrated by Borowczyk, entitled Dumb Animals. Additional information about the series will be available at www.walerianborowczyk.com, as of March 16.

“An internationally known surrealist filmmaker described variously by critics as a genius, a pornographer and a genius who also happened to be a pornographer.”
The New York Times

“One of the major artists of modern cinema.”
– David Thomson

Born in Poland during the 1920s, Borowczyk trained as a painter and sculptor before establishing himself first as one of the founders of the legendary Polish school of poster artists during the 1950s and later directing groundbreaking animation films in the 1960s. 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 humor masks a distinctly moral sensibility, eager to satirize the corruption of institutions, whether they be feudal, clerical, or bureaucratic.

Arguably the most controversial aspect of Borowczyk’s filmography is his approach to women. While his gaze is undeniably male and unashamedly voyeuristic, Borowczyk’s heroines are far from shrinking violets, often ready to toss off their corsets and use their sexuality as a means of transcending social constraints, while the men are left dithering between conflicting desires for physical gratification and public respectability.

Special thanks to Filmoteka Narodowa, and Centre National du Cinéma et de l’image animée.

Screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street). Tickets and a discount package for the series will go on sale Thursday, March 12. Single screening tickets are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for Film Society members. Visit filmlinc.comfor more information.

Justin LaLiberty holds degrees in film preservation from the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and film studies from Keene State College. He is the Creative Manager at Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers and is an itinerant projectionist, ready to run reels if you've got 'em.
Justin LaLiberty