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Walerian Borowczyk’s Heroines of Desire



After moving to Paris from his native Poland in 1958, where he had studied painting and graphic arts, Walerian Borowczyk became a noted director of animated and short films. These include Astronautes (with Chris Marker, 1959), Renaissance (1963), Les Jeux des Anges (1964), Rosalie (1966) and Gavotte (1967).

Borowczyk moved into features with the mostly animated Théâtre de Monsieur & Madame Kabal: un film dessiné pour les adultes (The Theatre of Mr and Mrs Kabal) (1967), followed by his first fully-acted feature, the darkly-comic political allegory, Goto, l’île d’amour (Goto, Island of Love) (1968). Borowczyk was hailed as a genius, an opinion only reinforced by his next feature, the tragic mediæval romance, Blanche (1971). His reputation as one the world’s greatest feature directors appeared set in stone.

However, artists don’t always take the paths their supporters wish them to. When Borowczyk made Contes Immoraux (Immoral Tales) (1974), a commercially-successful compilation of four stories about sexual taboos, most fans expressed grave alarm.

In 1975, Borowczyk returned to Poland and directed the classical melodrama, Dzieje Grzechu (The Story of a Sin), based on a famous Polish novel. The previously-sceptical critics did an abrupt volte farce and decided Contes Immoraux was just an aberration – the result perhaps of a director from a Communist country having enjoyed a little too enthusiastically the freedoms of the West – and heralded The Story of a Sin as the triumphant return by Borowczyk to his true artistic self.

Borowczyk had other intentions than pandering to reviewers, however, and made the film that nearly finished him critically: La Bête (The Beast) (1975). It, too, was a box-office success, audiences delighting in this witty and subversive classic, but, except in France (Robert Benayoun, Ado Kyrou, et al), it was dammed in print, usually on the basis of a heavily censored print. Rarely has such a fêted director been so unceremoniously dumped.

If La Bête demonised Borowczyk with most critics, the 1970s films which followed ensured that they would never forgive him: La Marge (The Margin) (1976), Interno di un Convento (Behind the Convent Walls) (1977), Les Héroïnes du Mal: Margherita, Marceline, Marie (Heroines of Evil) (1979) and the “L’Armoire” episode in the composite feature, Collections Privées (1979). That most of them made money didn’t help, either.

Though Borowczyk made five features in the 1980s, one could be forgiven for not having noticed. Lulù (1980), Dr. Jekyll et Les Femmes (1981), Ars Amandi: l’arte di amare (The Art of Love) (1983), Emmanuelle 5 (part only, 1987) and Cérémonie d’Amour (Love Rites) (1988) were little seen, often butchered by producers and distributors, hideously dubbed and derisively reviewed. His television work (four episodes of Série Rose: Les Chefs d’Œuvre de la Litterature Erotique, 1989-91) also passed unnoticed.

The critical savaging Borowczyk endured had to do with one thing: Borowczyk had exercised his right as an artist to discuss what interested him, in this case sex, and to show its many representations. Borowczyk’s motto had become that of La Rochefoucauld, who in Maximes writes:

Love, totally agreeable as it is, pleases more by the manner in which it shows itself than by itself.

The critics saw it another way, accusing Borowczyk of sexploitation and “art-porn”. Some even attacked him for making erotic films that weren’t erotic!

Objective evaluation went out the window, as yet another supposed villain of this period, director Roger Vadim, perceptively noted:

In the frenzy to top every other critic with declarations of outrage, many journalists published what can only be described as drivel.

I’m still surprised by the obsession of journalists and some members of the public with eroticism and nudity in my films. […] Where does this fixation come from? The Biblical symbol of Eve and the serpent is more profoundly embedded in our unconscious than we believe: A naked woman must remain innocent. When she discovers sexual pleasure she unleashes on the world all the evils that plague mankind.

Roger Vadim’s reference to Eve and the Serpent is highly relevant. Borowczyk’s films abound with references to the Genesis myth, to a story written with the sole purpose of justifying the subjugation of women to male will. Eve, the first victim of a male conspiracy, has cleverly been blamed for initiating a Fall in which she played no meaningful part, the true culprit being a jealous male god who was terrified of sharing his power with others.

Borowczyk holds no truck with the it’s-all-Eve’s-fault lie, and his greatest films show the ways in which Eve and her descendants liberate themselves from male rules and constraints.

They do not seek men’s permission to be free, but act fearlessly outside the rules and controls of men. Whether they enjoy sex alone (Thérèse), with a youth (Claudia) or a rabbit (Marceline), kill for money (Margherita) or to maintain beauty (Erzsébert), triumph over kidnap and rape (Marie) or frame men for murder (Mériem), sire a child with one’s father or brother (Lucrezia), let alone prefer to join her true love of the other side of darkness (Fanny), these are cinema’s great Heroines of Desire.

Borowczyk is no puritan and has no interest in judging women, no matter how transgressive their behaviour. As he has said:

Sigmund Freud wrote: the dream is the realization (disguised) of a desire (repressed, held back). For sure, film is a security valve for instincts that are condemned. It filters. The individual reveals himself outwardly, releases himself and hurts no one. He identifies with what he sees, kills via an intermediary and lives an experience through the cinema.

Ordinary people react well. They have no need to carry a mask.

Les Héroïnes du Mal, the subject of this essay, tells the story of three of these heroines. These Eves have escaped the male proscribed Eden and their journeys forward are an inspiration to us all.[...]

Scott Murray

— senses of cinema


«Historia de un pecado»



El Marqués de Sade en el siglo XX
(A proposito de ‘Historia de un pecado’ de Walerian Borowczyk)


Si el Marqués de Sade hubiera nacido a principios del siglo XX, estoy seguro de que buena parte de su obra, se habría registrado en cine. Suponiendo que el año de su nacimiento pudiera localizarse en la década de los veinte, su primer film podría situarse aproximadamente a finales de los años cincuenta. Tengo mis dudas sobre cómo en los años posteriores hubiese podido plasmar en celuloide las imágenes que inmortalizó en sus escandalosos escritos, allá a finales del siglo XVIII, pero tal vez podamos al menos satisfacer parcialmente esta curiosidad revisando la filmografía del cineasta polaco, afincado en Francia, Walerian Borowczyk.

El cine de Borowczyk, al menos la parte más sugestiva, podría definirse como la utópica búsqueda de equilibrio entre la clásica perversión, que surge precisamente de los escritos de Sade, y una mirada, excesivamente condicionada por los artificios narrativos de cierto tipo de cine de los setenta, que busca una supuesta modernidad voluptuosamente escabrosa, y que hipotéticamente debería llevar a una suerte de provocación que, con el paso de los años, ha resultado ser más bien ingenua. De todas formas, esta afirmación tiene algo de tramposa. Estoy convencido de que si, como planteaba, el viejo zorro del Marques hubiese trabajado en cine durante los setenta, sin lugar a dudas habría recurrido a las formulas que precisamente deshincharon la obra de Borowczyk, por lo que el conflicto no existiría. Quizá la contradicción en la filmografía del polaco estaría más bien en la necesidad de hacer convivir una mirada esencialmente pictórica, con ecos del romanticismo, utilizando recursos expresivos excesivamente vulgares, inclusive horteras. Si tuviéramos que situar al realizador, en unas breves líneas, recurriendo a una de sus obras más representativas, el título que mejor nos ayudaría en la tarea sería La bestia (La bête, 1975). La sugestiva adaptación de La bella y la bestia, continúa siendo el film más reconocible de una trayectoria singularmente irregular. En este trabajo se encuentran reunidas todas las constantes de la mirada del cineasta, romanticismo e ingenuidad propios de un cuento de hadas frente a la perversión y crueldad representativas de la pluma sadiana, y un notable dominio de los elementos que maneja para construirlo (especialmente el erotismo y el sentido de la fantasía que surgen continuamente del film). Sin embargo, los mayores hallazgos y la piezas más notables de su obra, continúan siendo los cortometrajes, especialmente esa obra maestra dirigida junto al trotamundos de Chris Marker, que se llama Les astronautes (1959), precisamente el primer film que rodó en Francia, el país en el que registró prácticamente toda su obra, y que sin lugar a dudas es su mejor trabajo. Estudiante de pintura en Cracovia y autor de diferentes carteles de cine, en su juventud, comenzó a realizar cortometrajes junto al más irregular Jan Lenica, utilizando técnicas de animación y collage. Curiosamente, en sus años de decadencia fílmica, durante los que realizó vulgares y ridículas adaptaciones de Ovidio y Stevenson, e incluso añadió un episodio más a la inefable serie de Emmanuelle inaugurada por Just Jaeckin, sus cortometrajes permanecen casi como pequeños triunfos, situados como diminutas islas en la inmensidad de un océano cada vez más hostil.

A la hora, sin embargo, de detenerse a analizar o reflexionar sobre una trayectoria llena de homogeneidad y coherencia, incluso como la Borowczyk, pese a la irregularidad e inclusive mediocridad de muchas de las propuestas, me llama poderosamente la atención aquellos trabajos que rompen precisamente esa unidad. En muchas ocasiones podemos hallar elementos más sugestivos en las excepciones que en las creaciones más representativas de un autor. Pese a que en la filmografía de Walerian Borowczyk, los cortometrajes son las piezas más desconocidas, y por momentos desconcertantes, como la citada colaboración con Marker, uno de sus largometrajes, realizado precisamente a continuación de La bestia, se destaca como su film más inesperado y por momentos inaudito.

Basado en la polémica novela del escritor Stefan Żeromski, y rodada en su Polonia natal, Historia de un pecado (Dzieje grzechu, 1975), abandona casi por completo no sus constantes argumentales pero si muchos de los chabacanos recursos estéticos que acabarían restando todo el interés a su cine y que ya se podían atisbar incluso en sus mejores películas, como Goto, l´île d´amour (1968). No deja de ser relativamente convencional y poco sorprendente el relato de las desventuras amorosas de Ewa Pobratyńska, una mujer virtuosa que por amor a un hombre casado abandonará su hogar y acabará convirtiéndose en una prostituta que perderá la vida al intentar salvar a ese primer amor trágico al que nunca llegó a olvidar, pero sí resulta extraordinaria la adaptación que Borowczyk plantea. Con semejante argumento, y conocedores de la complacencia del realizador a la hora de plasmar muchas de sus imágenes, la película podríamos temer que se deslizara por los caminos más trillados y supuestamente provocadores del erotismo descafeinado que tan grato parecía resultarle. Sin embargo, Historia de un pecado es un film gélido (a lo que contribuye una notable fotografía en colores muy fríos de Zygmunt Samosiuk, responsable también de la imagen de la hermosa Austeria (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1983) lleno de sombras (por momentos los personajes parecen moverse a través de la penumbra) y melancólica desesperanza (el personaje de Ewa desde las primeras imágenes en la iglesia confesándose, va a la deriva sin jamás encontrar su lugar, por eso perder a Lukasz, al parecer condenado en Italia por supuesto espionaje, derrumba el pequeño castillo de naipes que ha construido dejando atrás una vida vacía llena de convencionalismos y apariencias). En esta ocasión, el realizador encuentra el tono perfecto y no se deja llevar por la pasión que envuelve a la muchacha, manteniéndose como un espectador distanciado, por momentos una suerte de concurrente a un pequeño concierto de cámara que lo emociona pero que no le pertenece y en el que por tanto no puede inmiscuirse. A estos niveles, ésta quizá sea la película más equilibrada de su autor y, pese a que la segunda parte no esté a la altura de las excelencias apuntadas durante los primeros sesenta minutos, en los que se narra el comienzo de la historia de amor y la fuga de los dos protagonistas, resulta un perfecto ejemplo de solidez narrativa. La cámara en mano, en muchas ocasiones en continuo movimiento, casi frenético (por momentos, con reminiscencias a muchos de los trabajos de su compatriota Andrzej Wajda durante los años setenta) se transforma en una herramienta expositiva fundamental que parece llevarnos a un romanticismo desesperado que acabará concluyendo en una tragedia anunciada desde prácticamente los primeros fotogramas. La imperfección formal, con muchas tomas aparentemente mal encuadradas y brevísimos planos con rápidos movimientos en ocasiones desconcertantes, resulta asombrosa y acaba otorgándole a la película una atmósfera tan sugerente como angustiosa. La música de Mendelssohn, llena de emoción e intensidad, parece trasladarnos a otra época y marcar implacablemente el destino de la protagonista.

Más que nunca, con este trabajo el cineasta decidió ir hasta la esencia de la historia, hasta las últimas consecuencias, y no quedarse en la superficie, construyendo un film tan frío como hermoso, tan imperfecto como singular.

Con Historia de un pecado, Walerian Borowczyk pareció entonar su canto de cisne y, rompiendo parcialmente consigo mismo, construyó el que tal vez sea su trabajo más arriesgado y menos orientado a escandalizar a una audiencia supuestamente ávida de productos prefabricados teóricamente morbosos y/o escandalosos.

Visionando, más de treinta años después de ser filmado, este film y transcurridos tres años desde la desaparición del realizador, (una vez asimilada la grata sorpresa que ha supuesto descubrir un film tan sugestivo obra de un cineasta del que estaba seguro ya conocía sus mejores trabajos), como espectador sólo puedo lamentar que Borowczyk no continuara por este camino en vez de irse por la ruta más fácil y burda, la de la búsqueda de la provocación y el espectáculo gratuito. Es lo maravilloso del cine en definitiva, nunca deja de sorprendernos.

Ramón Alfonso

— miradas de cine


Interno di un convento



Dalla prima inquadratura, un giovane robusto che trasporta a spalle un quarto di bue destinato alle suore di un convento umbro, appare chiaro il tema di quest’opera di Borowczyk: furia iconoclasta anti religiosa, confortata dall’esposizione di preziose tazzine per il cioccolato, the e tutto il necessario per una sontuosa colazione. Un convento? Si, popolato da bellissime suore, quasi tutte di buona famiglia, probabilmente contro la loro volontà; l’interno del convento, la sua vita quotidiana, regolata dalle rigide regole della mortificazione dei desideri e dei piaceri, si mostra in tutta la sua contraddittorietà attraverso le pulsioni sessuali delle suore, represse da una badessa che cerca disperatamente di dirigere quello che solo esternamente sembra un luogo di meditazione e preghiera. Le estasi mistiche di alcune suore fanno da contraltare ad atti di autoerotismo, relazioni saffiche e incontri con uomini esterni al convento. La naturale sessualità, repressa dalle circostanze, si esalta attraverso lettere scritte da una suora da un immaginario amante, dalla masturbazione con un fallo di legno con su un’ immagine sacra da parte di un altra, dal suono quasi orgiastico di un violino, il tutto condito da auto palpeggiamenti, sguardi al proprio corpo che pulsa per la sessualità repressa. Il convento è quindi un ricettacolo più che di vizi, di desideri carnali inespressi.

Mortificare la carne, costringere ragazze nel fiore degli anni a una vita di reclusione e di privazione di quelle che sono le necessità fisiologiche del corpo è sintomo di crudeltà. In parte, è questo il messaggio che il regista lancia, imbastendo attorno a questo tema la storia di Clara, sorpresa dalla badessa mentre è con il suo amante. Il tutto finirà nel sangue e con uno scandalo prontamente messo a tacere, come racconta la stringata nota finale, facendo riferimento anche ad un’opera di Stendhal.

Se le intenzioni di Borowczyk sono quelle della denuncia dl potere religioso capace di soffocare anche i primari istinti umani, va detto che in questo film rimangono puramente nelle intenzioni. Pur non essendo un film erotico, proprio per la mancanza di situazioni atte a generare u interesse di questo tipo, il regista punta troppo sui piaceri sessuali, quelli auto erotici delle suore, anche se va detto che non indulge mai troppo nelle scene, salvo nella già descritta sequenza della masturbazione della suora. Il film scivola lentamente, e anche in maniera abbastanza noiosa, verso la parte finale, che invece accelera troppo il ritmo, con il risultato di rendere l’opera inorganica a sfilacciata.

Certo, le immagini sono al solito raffinatissime, nel consueto stile di Borowzik, con il classico effetto flou sparato ad ogni scena. Ma il risultato finale è abbastanza deludente, e il film rimane per la maggior parte un’incompiuta. In alcuni casi l’estasi mistica delle religiose è poco credibile, e si esplicita in immagini che lasciano il dubbio, concreto, di un’attenzione voyeuristica sospetta. Ben altre per aveva girato Borowczyk per non sospettare un’operazione meramente commerciale, destinata più che ad una denuncia dell’oppressione religiosa, presente per esempio in ben altro stile nel film La bestia, ad una bassa speculazione sul solito tabù del sesso, argomento quasi principe nella produzione del regista.

Molte più ombre che luci, quindi. Anche se qualche sequenza è al solito un piccolo gioiello: le scene iniziali nel giardino sono raffinate, così come di grande impatto è l’intera sequenza del funerale della badessa con la scoperta dei cadaveri di altre due religiose. Ma non bastano a salvare il film da un’aurea mediocrità; opinione largamente condivisa dai censori, che mutilarono il film proprio da quelle che sono le scene forse più illuminanti per capire il discorso fatto dal regista. Alla fine l’esercizio di stile è apprezzabile solo in quanto tale, così come del film si possono salvare le interpretazioni di Marina Pierro e Olivia Pascal e sopratutto di Gabriella Giacobbe,che interpreta con gran misura il personaggio della badessa Orsini, vittima sia del suo zelo religioso sia della lussuria di Suor Clara, una misurata Ligia Branice. Si segnala anche Howard Ross nel ruolo di Rodrigo Landiani e dell’ottimo Mario Maranzana in quello dello sventurato padre confessore, l’unico a non capire per intero quale sia davvero il problema delle suore, e che simboleggia la religiosità stupida e ottusa, quella che attribuisce al demonio ogni atto fatto in contrapposizione ai dettami della chiesa.

— Filmscoop


Walerian Borowczyk: «Blanche»



Walerian Borowczyk, if remembered at all nowadays, is recalled for the wrong reasons. He has been regarded in this country as a pseudo-cultured pornographer ever since The Beast, which ends with a sexual encounter in a forest between something that looks like a well-hung ape and a woman, was shown at the National Film Theatre to a pretentiously horrified audience. The film then came out commercially, minus most of the coupling, thanks to the censor of the day.

It is true that Borowczyk, a Polish film-maker who has a small museum of historic erotic implements, seems to have spent his last years in France, working in the soft-porn genre. But if it is indeed true, as the novelist Vladimir Nabokov says, that the letter "s" is the only difference between the cosmic and the comic, especially as far as sex is concerned, some of us are right to regard him as a precious talent. Indeed, David Thomson, in his Biographical Dictionary of Film, calls Borowczyk one of the major artists of modern cinema.

Born in 1923, he started off as an animator of pinpoint delicacy and the kind of surreal edge that reminded one of Dada and Luis Buñuel considerably more than Walt Disney. When he went into features there was the same eye for miniaturist detail. If his most infamous films were «Immoral Tales» and «The Beast», his most famous were «Goto, Isle of Love» and «Blanche». Both are classics of their kind, starring Ligia Branice, his wife and collaborator.

My favourite is «Blanche», which also contains one of the last performances on film of the great Michel Simon. When I showed it to a class of students who had never heard of Borowczyk or Simon, the film completely up-ended them. Admittedly, it is weird enough to make them sit up and pay attention, and the musical score, just about the first to use period instruments, would almost certainly be fashionable if put on record today.

«Blanche» is set in 13th-century France where Simon, who must have been well over 80 at the time, plays an almost senile baron with a simple but beautiful young wife (Branice) who everyone, including the King, lusts after. There is a lecherous page and a handsome but rather vacant lover too, and the film is a kind of fairytale dance of death where tragedy is probable, even if a happy outcome isn't entirely out of the question.

Almost the whole film takes place in the Baron's castle, where the king comes to stay. And its winding stone staircases, gloomy corridors and rooms full of bizarre decor and mechanical devices are as important as any characters in the film. Once again, every tiny detail is made to count double.

«Blanche», who climbs naked out of her bath early in the film, has a pet white dove in a cage, which is almost her alter ego as she flutters round her admirers, half frightened and half fascinated. She is a creature made for trouble and it isn't a total surprise when she is bricked into one of the castle walls.

Borowczyk's art, which often looks like a carefully animated painting, and has the pessimistic urge one associates with Franz Kafka, is invariably about sex, love and death - the ape in «The Beast» eventually dies of pleasure. But his eye is so sharp and his ironic sense of humour so audacious that even the worst of his films, such as «Emmanuelle 5», are worth something. The best inhabit a world you are unlikely to forget.

Derek Malcolm

— the guardian


Walerian Borowczyk on Surrealism



"I saw in a basket thousands of live snails. Some, diverging from their number, crept along the edge. Terror staggered me: each was completely indistinguishable from another".
William Rowney (1223-1264)



Surrealism is a program of absolute non-conformity, in life and in poetry, that speaks equally to the cinema. I'm all for it.

If I speak of surrealism, or if I intend to speak, I'm not thinking about Art. Art? This is the disciplines, constraints, the models, the artistic talents, psychology, theories, the schools. Art, that's "the artistes". Only creators are free.

In the domain of creation, all that exists without subscribing to a school always risks being dismissed as worthless. It is not a genuinely surrealist film that's determined by its script, the cinematic blueprint. That would require that a filmmaker could give birth to the camera, to the film and to the projector, so that the film would be the direct communication from his mind to that of another. For this diffusion of dreams not to bore, the sender would have to be unalike to the receiver.

One is unable to accurately reproduce one's dreams from memory. Dissembling and rationalisation of their constituent parts is therefore inevitable. The definitive form of a work depends on the extent and control of this operation.

Inevitably, we arrive at the point at which we're unable to avoid the application of aesthetic criteria.

In relation to sleep. I have invented and realised some of my films during the slumber of my producers and collaborators.

My criteria for evaluating a work of art, whether surrealist or marginal to that project, is the proportion of interest and tedium found within it.

A masterpiece is never tedious. What's more, its interest is more durable than fashion.

I prefer those works which are the proof of an instinctive imagination, but not affectation or plagiarism. I admire humour, but never when its gratuitous or facile. I applaud rebellion, but not when its opposed to life.

In Dom, I gave a glass of milk to an orange, because it needed to quench its thirst.

I never work with recourse to the state of psychic automatism. But that's not to say I'm incapable of employing a "modest apparatus of self-interrogation". The traditions of surrealism in past eras, heralded only now - the whole of that same involuntary surrealism - demonstrate that it is the beholder who is the source of surrealism. It is the virtue of these contemporary prospectors to be the creators of surrealism. The same subjectivity has allowed for the inventory of a number of passing impressions of involuntarily surrealist films. Rarely have these films been distinguished by their merits.

If we consider the cinematic apparatus, its luminous singularity, as a manifestation of surrealism, its not important what film is being projected to a surrealist.

The fact that cinema possesses the appropriate potential doesn't constitute sufficient reason to really think that it is automatically predisposed to a place in the landscape of surrealist expression.

Extracts of a film, successive frames of a particular sequence - this tendency among surrealists - are like a film the complete print of which doesn't exist. All film is a strip of celluloid, with images placed in the emulsion upon the surface of its length. Its not impossible to perceive, within a film, images that are good for their precision. Take your choice. That culminates in one composing anthologies.

"Nothing of nine!" exclaimed a woman after watching Renaissance. "Progress in reverse! Its taken 40 years for film to turn-about and go backwards!" And in 50 years, how many films have gone forwards? Nowadays, moreover, we exaggerate more and more (to the point of ridicule) form and technique. Neither one, nor the other possesses in other respects the primacy in film. It isn't possible for any film to unspool in reverse. Film and action are shown today in fast forward (excluding projectionist error). The method of shooting (the means with which the author obtains the desired distortion) is of no importance. That's a curiosity, merely a footnote.

I call for "Goyaesque scenes", because they'll provoke debate on scenes of war. Otherwise: "a film is surrealist because a gentleman walks upon the ceiling of a room". The majority of film critics are the captives of a literary vision. They do not trouble with how, why; in what manner; for whom, is sufficient. It is not their duty to make a statement.

Walerian Borowczyk collaborated with Jan Lenica on "Dom", the film which won the gold medal in the experimental film competition at the 1958 Brussels Word Fair. The short animations "Renaissance" and "Game of Angels" won him further acclaim. Among his most celebrated features are "Goto, Island of Love", "Blanche", "Immoral Stories" and "The Beast". Borowczyk enjoys an international cult following but the best source of information in English has been the (now, sadly defunct) Australian magazine, Cinema Papers. See also: Colin Davis' essay in Shock Express #2.

Translated by Jim Knox from the French. Originally published in Etudes Cinematographiques # 41/42 (1965) "Surrealisme et Cinema"; Yves Kovacs, editor.


— UbuWeb


Walerian Borowczyk



Walerian Borowczyk est né le 2 septembre 1923 à Kwilicz en Pologne. Après des études de dessin et de lithographie à l’Académie des Arts de Varsovie, il exerce d’abord comme affichiste pour le cinéma avant de se lancer, en 1946, dans la réalisation.

Après quelques courts métrages personnels, il co-réalise plusieurs films d’animation avec Jan Lenica, célèbre animateur polonais,, dont Był Sobie Raz (1954), Jour d’éducation et Dom (1958).

Après le succès de « Dom », Borowczyk s’installe définitivement à Paris et signe son premier film français Les astronautes en 1959. Chris Marker participe à sa réalisation et on y aperçoit, coiffée d’un magnifique chapeau, Ligia Borowczyk, la femme et désormais actrice fétiche de Borowczyk.

Dès la fin des années 50, Borowczyk est reconnu comme un des plus grands animateurs européens. Jan Svankmajer, les frères Quay ou encore Terry Gilliam, s’inspirent de ses films. Grâce à ses innovations techniques basées sur l’animation d’éléments très divers (photos découpées, objets, peintures, dessins), Borowczyk joue avec les matières et mélange les techniques pour créer des films surréalistes imprégnés d’humour noir.

Dans les années 60, Borowczyk réalise deux films considérés comme des chefs-d’œuvre de l’animation, Renaissance (1963) et Les jeux des anges (1964), puis son premier long métrage d’animation, Le théâtre de Monsieur et Madame Kabal (1967).

En 1967, il délaisse l’animation pour la fiction en prises de vue réelles et réalise Gavotte (1967) et Dyptique (1967). Suivent deux longs métrages Goto, l’île d’amour (1968) et Blanche (1971), qui marquent un tournant dans la carrière de Borowczyk. Dans ses deux films, il pose les jalons d’un cinéma où l’évocation sans détours de la sexualité et sa représentation par l’image sont au centre de l’intrigue La nudité féminine encore à l’état embryonnaire dans Blanche s’affiche sans ombrage dans les films qui suivent.

Nous sommes au début des années 70 et le cinéma français s’ouvre aux images érotiques. Encouragé par Anatole Dauman, son producteur, Borowczyk, lève le voile avec Contes immoraux, un long métrage composé de quatre épisodes s’articulant respectivement autour d’une pratique sexuelle jugée taboue. Un long cycle commence dans lequel Borowczyk s’attache à démonter les mécanismes du désir dans un univers dépeint comme un monde clos et autarcique avec ses rituels propres et ses objets fétichisés ; un univers où le désir est loi et où l’attrait de la chair autorise tous les dépassements.


Filmographie



1946
Mois d’août (cm)

1953
Głowa (cm)

1954
Photographies vivantes (cm)
L’atelier de Fernand Léger (cm)

1955
Jesień (Automne) (7 min)
Le modeste photographe (cm)

1957
Był Sobie Raz (Il était une fois) (co-réalisé avec Jan Lenica, 11 min)
Nagrodzone Uczucia (Le sentiment récompensé)(co-réalisé avec Jan Lenica, 10 min)
Strip-Tease (co-réalisé avec Jan Lenica, 1 min)
Dni Oświaty (Jours d’éducation, co-réalisé avec Jan Lenica, cm)
Sztandar Młodych (L’étendard des jeunes, co-réalisé avec Jan Lenica, cm)

1958
Szkoła (L’école) (9 min)
Dom (co-réalisé avec Jan Lenica, 14 min)

1959
Les astronautes (co-réalisé avec Chris Marker, 14 min)
Terra incognita (2 min 30)
Le magicien (cm)
La tête (cm)
La foule (cm)
La boîte à musique (cm)
Solitude (cm)

1962
Le concert (6 min)

1963
Holy Smoke (57 min)
L’encyclopédie de Grand-maman (7 min)
Renaissance (8 min 45)
Les stroboscopes (cm)
Magasins du 19è siècle (cm)
Les bibliothèques (cm)
Les écoles (cm)
La fille sage (cm)
L’écriture (cm)
Gancia (cm)
Le petit poucet (cm)

1964
Les jeux des anges (11 min 30)
Le musée (cm)

1965
Le dictionnaire de Joachim (9 min)

1966
Rosalie (14 min 45)

1967
Le théâtre de Monsieur et Madame Kabal (80 min)
Gavotte (10 min)
Diptyque (cm)

1968
Goto, l'île d'amour (89 min)

1969
Le phonographe (6 min)

1971
Blanche (92 min)

1973
Une collection particulière (14 min)

1974
Contes immoraux (99 min)

1975
Dzieje Grzechu (Histoire d’un pêché, 128 min)
La bête (94 min)
Brief von Paris (documentaire, 45 min)
Escargot de Venus (5 min)

1976
La marge (95 min)

1977
L’interno di un convento (Intérieur d’un couvent, 95 min)

1979
Les héroïnes du mal (115 min)
Zootrope (cm)
Armoire (50 min)
L’amour monstre de tous les temps (10 min)

1980
Lulu (85 min)
Hyper Auto Erotic Art- Hayashi (documentaire, 75 min)

1981
Le cas étrange de Docteur Jekyll et Miss Osbourne (Docteur Jekyll et les femmes) (95 min)

1985
Ars amandi (L’art d’aimer, 92 min)
Scherzo infernal (5 min)

1987
Emmanuelle V (85 min)

1988
Cérémonie d'amour (100 min)

1991
L’almanach (épisode n°8 de « Série rose », cm)

1992
L’expert Halima (épisode de « Série rose, cm)
Un traitement justifié (épisode de « Série rose », cm)

1993
Lotus d'or (épisode n°11 de « Série rose », cm)


À lire
«L’anatomie du diable» de Walerian Borowczyk, éd. Pierre Belfond, Paris, 1992.
«Anatomia diabła» de Walerian Borowczyk, éd. Polski Dom Wydawniczy, Warszawa, 1993.
«Moje polskie lata» (Mes années polonaises) de Walerian Borowczyk, éd. Hypnos Media, Paris, 2001.
«Walerian Borowczyk: Cinema of Erotic Dreams», by Jeremy Mark Robinson, Crescent Moon Publisher 2008.
«Co myślę patrząc na rozebraną Polkę» de Walerian Borowczyk, éd. Rytm, Warszawa 2008.
«Walerian Borowczyk» éditions de l'œil. coordonné par Pascal Vimenet, 2009.

Rétrospective
Un hommage a été rendu à Walerian Borowczyk à Varsovie en janvier 2008 (b.boro.borowczyk) pour la première fois la totalité de ses films ont été présentés en Pologne, accompagnés de ses travaux plastiques.

Prix
Venice; Bergamo; Brussels; London; New York; Los Angeles; Annecy; Berlin; Locarno; San Remo; Milan; Tours; Knokke le Zoute; Oberhausen; Lisbon; Mannheim; Rodez; Melbourne; Philadelphia; Prades; Cracovie; Warsaw; Paris; Bilbao; , etc.
— 1967 /Prix Max Ernst
— 1971 /Gold Medal from the President of the Italian Republic
— 1986 /Officier des Arts et des lettres

— Arte