Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 18th, 2014
Theatrical Release Dates: France, 1959 (The Astronauts), France, 1962 (The Concert), France, 1963 (Grandmother’s Encyclopaedia), France, 1964 (Renaissance), France, 1965 (The Games of Angels, Joachim’s Dictionary), France, 1966 (Rosalie), France, 1967 (Mr. and Mrs. Kabal’s Theatre, Diptych), France, 1968 (Gavotte), France, 1969 (The Phonograph), France, 1977 (The Greatest Love of All Times), France, 1984 (Scherzo Infernal)
Directors: Walerian Borowczyk, Chris Marker (The Astronauts), Walerian Borowczyk (The Concert, Grandmother’s Encyclopaedia, Renaissance, The Games of Angels, Joachim’s Dictionary, Rosalie, Mr. and Mrs. Kabal’s Theatre, Diptych, Gavotte, The Phonograph, The Greatest Love of All Times, Scherzo Infernal)
Cast: Michel Boschet, Ligia Branice, Anatole Dauman, Philippe Lifchitz (The Astronauts), Ligia Branice (Rosalie), Louisette Rousseau, Pierre Collet, Louis Jojot, Renata Astruc, Jacqueline Boivin, Edith Catry, Yvonne Landry, Kathy Luc, Maïté Mansoura, Mei-Chen (Mr. and Mrs. Kabal’s Theatre), Roberto, Ludo (Gavotte), Ljubomir Popovic (The Greatest Love of All Times)
BluRay released: September 8th, 2014
Approximate running times: 13 minutes (The Astronauts), 7 minutes (The Concert), 7 minutes (Grandmother’s Encyclopaedia), 9 minutes (Renaissance), 12 minutes (The Games of Angels), 9 minutes (Joachim’s Dictionary), 15 minutes (Rosalie), 77 minutes (Mr. and Mrs. Kabal’s Theatre), 9 minutes (Diptych), 11 minutes (Gavotte), 6 minutes (The Phonograph), 10 minutes (The Greatest Love of All Times), 5 minutes Scherzo Infernal)
Aspect Ratios: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The Greatest Love of All Times), 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The Games of Angels) 1.37:1 (The Astronauts, The Concert, Grandmother’s Encyclopaedia, Renaissance, Holy Smoke!, The Museum, Tom Thumb, Joachim’s Dictionary, Rosalie, Mr. and Mrs. Kabal’s Theatre, Diptych, Gavotte, The Phonograph, Scherzo Infernal)
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono French (All Films)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region Free / Region o PAL
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
This was Walerian Borowczyk’s first short film after arriving in France and at the time since he was not a citizen he had to co-author it with Chris Marker, who is most for his short film La Jetée, which later inspired the film 12 Monkeys.
The Concert: A husband and wife do an impromptu concert while they run around the house thrashing on each other.
This short would mark the first appearance of Mr. and Mrs. Kabal who would later be the main characters in Walerian Borowczyk’s first film.
Grandmother’s Encyclopaedia: Three letters of the alphabet are explored as the letter A is for an Automobile, the letter B is for a Balloon and the letter C is for Chemin De Fer.
A simple narrative that propped by its creators boundless imagination.
Renaissance: Destroyed objects reassembled themselves.
This short is most remembered for its use of reverse motion which gives the illusion that the destroyed objects are reassembling themselves. This short ends with an ironic twist, one of the objects was a bomb that now put back together it destroys everything.
This short is easily the most memorable one included in this collection. And it also starts off with one of the most unusual openings to ever grace any film. The stark imagery and story content is reportedly a veiled reference to the Nazi concentration camps.
Joachim’s Dictionary: The alphabet once again makes an appearance as each letter is backed by a visual for that word.
Rosalie: A woman is put on trial for killing her infant child.
This is another standout short that lingers on in your mind long after it has ended. This is a live action short that features Ligia Branice in the role of the woman on trial. She would appeared in three of Walerian Borowczyk’s live action films, Goto, Isle of Love, Blanche and Behind Convent Walls.
Mr. and Mrs. Kabal’s Theatre: A day in the life of Mr. and Mrs. Kabal.
Mr. and Mrs. Kabal return for a feature length adventure that combines animation and live action shots of attractive women in bikinis. This film open and closes with appearances from Walerian Borowczyk who in the opening sequence talks to Mrs. Kabal, who replies in her robotic voice. The opening moments are spent with the animator trying to decide how they want Mrs. Kabal took as they give her wide variety of heads that they quickly take away. From there the Kabal’s go to the beach and the insanity ensues. One moment that springs to mind is when Mrs. Kaba comes out of the changing room at the beach and her breasts fall off. Needless to say this film is truly bizarre and another absurd moment includes a scene where Mrs. Kabal’s body swells up after she swallows a butterfly and her husband climbs inside of her. The most amusing motif is this film is how every time Mr. Kabal uses his binoculars he sees a beautiful girl in a bikini. Unfortunate for him his moment of pleasure is cut short every time when he peeping is caught by an old man lets him know he is now being watched.
Diptych: This is a documentary that revolves around a farmer and his dogs. Then the second half of this documentary shifts towards a series of colorful flower arrangements. The first part with the farmer is in black & white, while the latter half is in vivid color.
This film takes place in the 17th century and the twist that I left out of the synopsis is that the two characters at odds at each are both midgets.
The Phonograph: The title for this one pretty much sums it up, a phonograph plays music. This short uses stop motion to remove and load the new music selections.
The Greatest Love of All Times: This short is a documentary about Serbian surrealist painter Ljubomir Popovic.
Scherzo Infernal: An angel angers God when she reveals she would like to be a prostitute and a devil becomes an outcast when he reveals to his father that he wants help others. One day the two outcasts meet and their fornication creates another being.
This is easily the most perverse and sexually graphic of all the shorts included in this collection.
Over the span of twenty five years which these shorts were made that are featured in this collection there is a wide variety of styles employed, most notably the use of stop motion and live action images with animation. Content these shorts all over the place, though several do foreshadow what was yet to come from Walerian Borowczyk.
Walerian Borowczyk Short Films and Animation comes on a 50 GB dual layer (46.5 GB) BluRay. All of the content included with this release is presented in its intended aspect ratio and all of the content is also presented in 1080 progressive. All of the materials used for these new 2k transfers was source from original 35mm elements, expect Mr. and Mrs. Kabal’s Theater which was sourced from the original 35mm interpositive and the original sound negative. Colors look nicely saturated, black and contrast levels look great throughout. Details look crisp (the live action moments has ever so slightly more clarity), there are no issues with compression or DNR. Overall all of the content in this release look extremely good.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in French and removable English subtitles have also been included with this release. The audio for the content included with this release sounds clean, clear and balanced throughout. And though there is minimal dialog is it clear and easy to follow. Also sound is very important to the majority of the content included with this release and when it comes to range this some consistently great throughout.
Extras for this release include a introduction with filmmaker Terry Gilliam (1 minute 2 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), a segment titled ‘Blow Up’s’ (4 minutes 43 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) that contains drawings / paintings created by Walerian Borowczyk, three commercials that were directed by Walerian Borowczyk, Holy Smoke! (9 minutes 55 seconds – 1.37:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive), The Museum (1 minute 50 seconds – 1.37:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive, in French with English subtitles) and Tom Thumb (1 minute 50 seconds – 1.37:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive, in French with English subtitles). Other extras include a documentary about Walerian Borowczyk’s Short Films and Animation titled ‘Film is not a Sausage’ (28 minutes 21 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in French with English subtitles) with comments from Walerian Borowczyk (via an archive interview), filmmaker Andre Heinrich, producer Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin and composer Bernard Parmegiani (via a vintage audio interview).
Topics discuss Walerian Borowczyk’s unique approach to making cinema and his hands on approach that included making many of the props that appear in his films, the short films he worked on are discussed in great depth and clips from them are shown throughout this extra, the commercials he directed and the importance of music and sounds in regards to his imagery.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible covert art and thirty two page booklet that contains information about the shorts and animation included with this release, a statement from the director, contemporary reviews, four essays, two written by Daniel Bird ‘The Magician’ and ‘Scratched into the Screen with a Blunt Fork’ and the other two written by Peter Graham ‘Two Films by Walerian Borowczyk’ and ‘So Common Yet So Uncanny’ written by filmmaker Patrice Leconte and information about the restoration work done for this release. There is a wealth of information and insight contained within the booklet included with this release.
Also included with this release are two DVD’s which have the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release.
Walerian Borowczyk Short Films and Animation is also part of a box set entitled Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection which also includes the following films, Goto, Isle of Love, Blanche, Immoral Tales and The Beast. This box set also included a generously illustrated book edited by Daniel Bird and Michael Brooke featuring new essays, landmark articles by Raymond Durgnat, Philip Strick, Patrice Leconte, David Thompson and Chris Newby, Boro’s Dictionary, an account of the restoration of Borowczyk films and Anatomy of the Devil, a collection of Borowczyk’s short stories translated from the original French by the filmmaker’s assistant, Michael Levy. This release was limited to 1,000 copies and is now OOP. Fortunately the five release which make up this set are available in standalone releases and they contain the exact same content that their counterparts from the box set included. Overall this is an exceptional release that comes with 13 Walerian Borowczyk’s Short Films and Animation and a wealth of insightful extra content, highly recommended.