Love Express: The Disappearance of Walerian Borowyck (2018)

May 10th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Kuba Mikurda | Wri: Marcin Kubawski, Kuba Mikurda |

Love Express. The Disappearance of Walerian Borowczyk by debut documentarian and academic Kuba Mikurda explores the career of the Polish controversial cult filmmaker who rose to international recognition during the 1970s with his erotic arthouse fare. A brilliant opening sees Borowczyk accused of being “a complete pervert” by his French interviewer. His smart rejoinder is that everyone indulges in subversive thoughts but he gives them life in his films.

Mikurda captures the Avantgarde weirdness of it all by patching together clips from the Polish surrealist’s films interpolated by the emotive musings from other filmmaking luminaries – the late Andrzej Wajda, Terry Gilliam, Patrice Leconte, Slavoj Zizek, Neil Jordan, Bertrand Bonello and Mark Cousins are overlaid by pithy quotes and comments made by Mr B himself who is now considered one of the 20th century’s most significant animators and auteurs. Several call him naive: Lisbeth Hummel (who appeared in The Beast) and Cherry Porter who also claims he became less lyrical about women in his later years. British critic Peter Bradshaw admits to being totally bemused by his stuff as a teenager back in the 1970s, but also confesses they were very male films: men were both the filmmakers, and the consumers – well done Peter!.

The cult classic clips include many of the maverick filmmaker’s best known features and Mikurda and his writer Kubawski divide these into chapters devoted to Goto, Island of Love (1968), Immoral Tales (1974) and The Beast (1975), accompanied by Stefan Wesolowski’s fricative occasional score, which gives the piece a scattergun rhythm.

And although they all have a great deal of interesting observations to make, the talking heads take up the lion’s share of the film rather than the great man himself who remains an enigmatic figure, although open-faced and amiable enough, speaking perfect French in a TV interview back in 1984. We learn nothing of his early life in Poland and the relationships that shaped him and his self-imposed exile from his homeland?. This background could have informed his delicately drawn erotic films with their distinct cultural and historical flavour.

Naturally the segment on Sylvia Kristel and Emmanuelle V (1986) gets a great deal of screen time with worthwhile input from the film’s co-director Thierry Bazin (who claims Mr B only ate potatoes during their daily lunches together). But this feature also marked his gradual decline, dealt with rather abruptly as the doc runs out of steam.

So Mikurda’s debut is a welcome attempt to shed light on the intriguing world of Walerian Borowczyk leaving ample room for more insight, particularly from a female point of view. MT

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