Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 19th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: 1959 (The Astronauts), 1968 (Goto, Island of Love), 1975 (The Beast), 1988 (Love Rites)
Director: Walerian Borowczy (Except for The Astronauts Walerian Borowczyk & Chris Marker)
Cast: Philippe Lifchitz (The Astronauts), Pierre Brasseur, Ligia Branice, Jean-Pierre Andréani (Goto, Island of Love), Sirpa Lane, Lisbeth Hummel, Elisabeth Kaza, Pierre Benedetti (The Beast), Marina Pierro, Mathieu Carrière, Josy Bernard (Love Rites)
DVD Released: February 28th, 2006
Approximate running time: 372 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Goto Island of Love), 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (The Beast), 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen (Love Rites)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Freneh (All Three Films), Dolby Digital Mono English (The Beast)
Subtitles: English (All Three Films)
DVD Release: Cult Epics
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $59.95
Goto, Island of Love: Goto the third is a sadistic dictator who rules of the people on the remote island of Goto. Criminals are used as a form of entertainment with the winner of the death match given their freedom. Grozo who’s crime was stealing another man’s binoculars is forced to fight for his life against a man who has committed multiple murders. Grozo life is spared by Goto’s wife Glossia and he is given the job of taking care of Goto’s dogs and catching all the flies on the island. Grozo who has become infatuated with Glossia also has a desire to rule of the island of Goto.
Walerian Borowczyk with Goto, Island of Love, smoothly makes the transition from animation to live action features. Content wise the film has all the qualities one would expect from a fairy tale. A story that does not looks itself into any know period of time and a place an island which the characters live on that is a world unto its own.
From a visual stand point the imagery often borders in the realm of surreal. Borowczyk directs the film with a silent film like quality which lets the sequences flourish to their full potential. Also Georg Friedrich Handel’s ‘Concerto No 11 opus 7’ perfectly complements this film’s black and white photography. Another way the cinematography often excels is that there is a voyeuristic quality to the way he lets moments unfold. And though this is his first live action feature film, with this film he would already show glimpses of the things that he would dominate many of his films.
A few standout moments involve the scene where Grozo taunts the criminal who tried to kill him in the film’s opening moments and a scene where Goto takes Glossia to the beach. Another moment of note and without the moments that resonates the most is the scene where Grozo reveals his intentions to Glossia and to further impact this moment he informs her that her lover is dead.
When compared to his later films Goto, Island of Love, is very tame in regards to its depiction of eroticism. With this film’s most erotica moments being a scene involving women bathing at a bathhouse or another moment when Glossia’s naked backside is shown, while she is having sex with her lover.
A theme that runs throughout this film is that of totalitarianism. And not is just social structure present on the island, but in regards to way that Glossia is not able to be with the man she wants. Though she is the wife of the ruler of the island she so desperately wants to leave the only place she has ever known with her lover. And when the moment arises for her husband to confront her about said affair, another man named Grozo seizes the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Unfortunately for Grozo tragedy is just around the corner.
Performance wise the entire cast are superb in their respective roles, especially Ligia Branice mesmerizing performance in the role of Glossia, the object of several men’s desires. Another performance of note is Guy Saint-Jean in the role of Grozo. He does a remarkable job portraying a character who often does despicable things. Overall Goto, Island of Love is a compelling story that will hold your gaze and linger on in your mind long after its tragic final moments.
The Beast: Lucy Broadhurst is an American heiress who travels to France with her aunt. She is going to France to meet her future husband Mathurin de l’Esperance for the first time. They have only spoken via the letters they wrote each other. The de l’Esperance’s were once wealthy French aristocrats who have fallen on hard time and now they are placing the burden of reclaiming their former glory on the shoulders of Mathurin. After Lucy’s arrival there is so much to do with only a matter of days to prepare before the date preordain for her and Mathurin’s wedding. While Lucy waits for her wedding day she dreams of the former lady of the house Romilda de l’Esperance who had a sexual encounter with beast. Will Lucy try to forget these things she has dreamed or have they aroused a desire that has always been hidden deep within her?
The Beast was originally conceived as part of Walerian Borowczyk’s anthology film Immoral Tales, under the title The True Story of the Beast of Gevaudan. From there Borowczyk took the original short film and expanded into a feature length film.
Very few films grab your attention with its opening moments like The Beast does. The film opens with the sound of horses getting ready to copulate while credits appear over a black backdrop. Then once the first images actually arrive, they are of a male horse who pursues then mounts his female prey. This scene like the dream sequence which happens later on in the film are not for the faint of heart as we are shown in graphic detail the mating process of horses.
From a narrative stand point things are actually straight forward and when the notorious dream sequences finally arrives it is told in such a way that it effortlessly blends into the story at hand. Everyone’s intentions and desires are made crystal clear.
On the surface, though the beast only appears in the flesh in this film’s protagonists’ dreams after she reads a dairy from a descendant that live where she is staying two hundred years before. When in her reality when she pleasures herself as she imagines the beast ravaging her ancestor, she is also at the same time unlocking her own beast, her repressed sexual desires.
Performance wise outside of this film’s two leading ladies Lisbeth Hummel and Sirpa Lane (Beast in Space), none of the other cast leave a lasting impression. These other performances are mere pawns in the grander scheme of things. And of the two leading ladies Hummel gets the much larger screen time and thus is given much more to do. With that being said, she gives the better-rounded and thus the most satisfying performance in the film. Also there is a real growth in her character that is lacking in the rest of the characters. And despite the fact that her presence is only limited to one sequence in which her character never utters a word, in the end it is Lane’s performance that majority will remember.
The majority of Borowczyk’s films are laced with black humor and though The Beast is an adult fairy tale in which eroticism plays a key role. One must not undervalue the importance that humor plays in this film.
Walerian Borowczyk has a distinct visual eye that is lyrical and lucid. Everything about The Beast is done with the utmost care and each scene is beautifully photographed by cinematography by Bernard Daillencourt. Overall The Beast is a truly unique film from a one of a kind artist.
Love Rites: Hugo (Mathieu Carriere) becomes infatuated with Myriam (Marina Pierro) a prostitute after seeing her one day on the subway. Hugo’s growing obsession for Myriam leads him down a dark path where ecstasy and pain are one in the same.
Love Rites has all the markings that we have come to expect while watching a Walerian Borowczyk seductive imagery and adult themes. At time some of the action in the film feels forced as the camera movements is not as subtle as Borowczyk earlier films. The story starts off slowly before finally coming together in the final act. The strongest part of this film is its two leads Marina Pierro and Mathieu Carrière. Both give convincing performances that help elevate the films weak plot. Marina Pierro looks stunning in the film and she was the perfect choice for Myriam the black widow like seductress.
Overall even though Love Rites is far from Borowczyk’s best work as a director it is still a fascinating swan song from one of cinema’s most unique filmmakers.
Cult Epics presents Goto Island of Love in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The black and white photography has solid blacks and the contrast looks dead on. There is some minor print damage and grain is kept to a minimum. Overall Cult Epic’s transfer looks stunning.
Goto Island of Love comes with one audio option French which is presented in a Dolby Digital mono. Dialog is crisp and easy to follow. There is some minor hiss, still nothing that ever becomes too distracting. The music and effects sounds evenly mixed. Overall this audio mix sounds pretty good considering the age of this film. English Subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
Cult Epics presents The Beast in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors look nicely saturated and details remain sharp throughout. There is some minor print damage and grain is kept to a minimum. Overall Cult Epic’s did an amazing job with this transfer.
The Beast comes with two audio options French or English which are both presented in a Dolby Digital mono. Both tracks are free of any hiss or distortion and dialog is always easy to understand. The music and effects sounds evenly mixed. Overall despite sounding a tad thin at times these audio mixes more then get the job done. English Subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
Cult Epics presents Love Rites in a letterboxed aspect ratio that looks like it faithfully retains the film’s original aspect ratio. Outside of some softness this non anamorphic transfer fares pretty good with solid colors and the print used is virtually free of any print damage. Overall Cult Epic’s transfer looks adequate with room for improvement.
Love Rites comes with one audio option French which is presented in a Dolby Digital mono. Dialog sound clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The music and effects sound evenly mixed. Overall this audio mix fares slightly better than this films transfer. English Subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
Extras for Goto, Island of Love include a trailer for the film, a filmography for the director and liner notes about the film.
The main extra for this release is a fourteen minute cartoon titled “The Astronauts” in which a man builds a spaceship out of newspapers. Outside of music and sound effects this short is virtually free on any dialog. This film is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The colors look strong with only some minor instances of faded colors. There is some minor print damage, still nothing that ever becomes too distracting. Overall it is an interesting short and Cult Epic’s transfer is more than satisfactory.
Extras for The Beast include a trailer for the film, a photo gallery with 16 stills and liner notes about the film. The extras are a bit sparse and not as extensive as Cult Epic’s three DVD set of The Beast which they released in 2004.
Extras for Love Rites include a photo gallery and liner notes about the film. Also this release comes with two versions of the film the eighty seven minute directors cut and a ninety seven minute cut of the film that is nice to have even if the added scenes offer very little in the way of enhancing the story or getting to know the characters.
Each of the three main features and the short film The Astronauts come with postcards that have an image from each film.
The Beast and Love Rites have both been released before while Goto Island of Love makes its DVD début in the set and all three titles are available separately.
Cult Epics Walerian Borowczyk collection collects three films from three distinctively different periods of Borowczyk’s long and varied career as a filmmaker, highly recommended.