Archive for Walerian Borowczyk


Posted in FILM with tags , , on February 15, 2017 by dcairns


The eyes are the most essential organ in erotica/porn.

I have a new article up at MUBI’s The Notebook, exploring the work of Walerian Borowczyk. Penetrating red-hot X-rated cinephilia!

The Sunday Intertitle: Baby’s Got a Gun

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 16, 2016 by dcairns


…and, in this cylindrical container pilfered from an unsuspecting uncle, the ammo to  go with it.

Today I’m off to the Glasgow Film Theatre to see ROBIN AND MARIAN in 35mm, but first off, here’s a look at a 1911 short by Louis Feuillade, BEBE TIRE LA CIBLE (Baby Shoots the Target, AKA JIMMY PULLS THE TRIGGER). Before LF recruited little René Poyen as child star, he worked extensively with Bebé, aka René Dary AKA Clément Mary, who was a right little bastard.

While the Liquorice Kid lived outside the rules but used his powers for good, Bebé lives a pampered existence as a spoiled brat, motivated only by an instinct for mayhem. In this short, an indulgent uncle presents the little beast with a toy shotgun, hanging on to the ammunition so that the firearm can only be used under supervision.


Of course he does! You don’t need Google Translate to work that one out, do you? See top image for illustration. Before long, small holes pepper the parlour and the cook. It’s a Louis Fusillade!

As in later Feuillade films, the actors are all somewhat aware of the camera and perform little gestures for our benefit, to aid comprehension. Considerate of them. And like the Liquorice Kid, Bebé enjoys our confidence more than the other characters. But there the resemblance ends. He’s a little shit.

He did, however, enjoy an unusually long career, making his last appearance in Walerian Borowczyk’s GOTO, L’ÎLE D’AMOUR in 1968.

Life and Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2013 by dcairns


As last films go, Jan Svankmajer’s SURVIVING LIFE (THEORY AND PRACTICE) is both vibrant and energetic and full of creative juice, and deeply melancholy on a number of levels. It’s sad because the filmmaker has announced it as his last work, and because he’s made it without his creative partner, wife Eva Svankmajerova, who designed for his films and was in every way seemingly his perfect other half.

The film is something of a departure for Svankmajer, deploying a cut-out animation technique (achieved using computers) stolen from Terry Gilliam who stole it from Walerian Borowczyk. The alchemist of Prague even introduces the film in person (as a cut-out) like Gilliam did in TIDELAND. Svankmajer takes the opportunity to explain all the film’s stylistic choices as being solutions to budgetary limitations (using cut-outs saves on petrol and catering), and even explaining the introduction itself as a fix for the film’s short running time (however, it’s not THAT short). A glum apologia that slowly gets funnier the more despondent it becomes.


The biggest surprise about the film, whose imagery (flopping tongues, bodily functions, bizarre juxtapositions and violations of scale, human-animal hybrids, dream-reality crossovers) and sound design (slurping and slapping and flopping) are absolutely consistent with the rest of the auteur’s oeuvre, is that it tells an old-fashioned Freudian investigation story, like MARNIE, in which nearly everything fits together like a well-oiled plot mechanism out of Hitchcock. The difference which lifts it well out of banality is that the dream analysis and breaking through the barrier of traumatic amnesia is achieved in a narrative in which the distinction between reality and dream is continuously blurred and muddied. The protagonist Evzen (or Eugene — it’s a film about heredity, or eugenics) has his dreams analysed by a shrink, upon whose wall hang duelling portraits of Freud and Jung, but some of what she analyses was stuff we assumed to be reality, and some of her consultations seem to be happening in dreams.  And both Evzen’s waking life and his sleep adventures are prone to disruption by the same surreal manifestations — chicken-headed women, a dog-headed man, giant hands and eggs and apples and falling melons…


The Oedipal angle is well to the fore as Evzen pursues the woman of his dreams, who seems to be both his anima (female self) and his mother, and at one point bears the name of Eva, at another Evzenie. The whole thing ends with life, catharsis, death, the closing of a loop which may swallow itself like an ouroborous or blossom out into new possibilities depending on your reading.