A retrospective of Walerian Borowczyk, a director and visual artist, was organised in the New York’s Lincoln Center. The audience viewed 13 full-length films, short films and the artist’s poster exhibition.
The review was commenced with screening of Doctor Jekyll and His Women. During the eight-day long event the audience also enjoyed other Borowczyk’s films, including The Margin, Blanche inspired with Juliusz Słowacki’s Mazepa, and Story of a Sin, adapted from Stefan Żeromski’s novel.
Walerian Borowczyk was dubbed the creator of the French erotic cinema. Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) portrays him as world’s cinema giant, a Dadaist taunter and a reckless sensualist. FSLC puts an emphasis on Borowczyk’s novelty, his painter’s eye, connections with films of Méliès, Keaton and Eisenstein, points at his mastered application of classical and electronic music, specific sense of humour, surrealist elements, and his fascination with fantasy and eroticism. As the most controversial aspect of Borowczyk’s filmography the FSLC regards the director’s attitude towards women.
Florence Almozini, the main curator of the FSLC film program, spoke about the difficulties that they’ve encountered upon assembly of this number of films. Some of them needed to be renovated.
Borowczyk’s works are provocative, sexy. His films amaze with a trembling camera, sound and interesting application of music. The long shots in his films often resemble a documentary convention.
Curator Daniel Bird stressed that Borowczyk’s experimental animation and his taboo-breaking feature films address universal topics, like love, hate, life and death. As Bird said, Borowczyk can be happy at one point, scary at the other, and visually his films are faultless; whether he used a brush or a camera – his lighting, motion and framing fascinated. In the curator’s opinion perceiving Borowczyk’s creative output only through the prism of eroticism is a trivialisation of the artist’s work.
To automatically attribute a filmmaker, who shows naked bodies, with a “representative of erotic cinema” label is a simplification. To say that Borowczyk was the creator of French erotic cinema is like to call Dostoevsky the author of Russian criminal novels.
Present at the screening, Michael Levy, an actor who performed in Doctor Jekyll and His Women and four other films of Borowczyk, was excited to notice that the director finally reaches to new generation of viewers:
He had the courage to follow his own vision, regardless of the consequences. If he’d abandoned his artistic beliefs, he could be earning a lot of money. But he’d rather speak his language, combine culture and history of many countries, Greece, Poland, France or America.
The director had to fight with critics, producers and distributors for many years, because he refused to adapt to the ruling canons.
Bartek Remisko, the acting director of the Polish Cultural Institute in New York, said that the works on the retrospective took his institute and the FSLC a year.
Success of Żuławski’s retrospective among New York’s younger audience has prepared a base for Borowczyk’s works, which is fairly unknown in the USA. We’re planning a complete retrospective of Wojeciech Has’s films in October of 2015. We seek the opportunity to organise a retrospection of Piotr Szulkin’s works next year.
Walerian Borowczyk was born in 1923 in Kwilcz near Poznań, he lived in France from 1959. He died in France in 2006. He was an accomplished visual artist, scriptwriter, stage designer, director of animated and feature films, and writer. He studied painting and graphic arts at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1951. He then focused on graphics and animations, which he created together with Jan Lenica. Borowczyk was awarded the Max Ernst Prize for his life's work in animated films in 1967, and the President of the Italian Republic's Gold Medal in 1971, and was a recipient of awards at festivals of short films, including those in Oberhausen, Mannheim, Tours, Berlin, Venice and Kraków.
Source: PAP, Andrzej Dobrowolski, edit. KK, transl. Agata Dudek, 17/04/15.