Friday, 27 March 2015

Immoral Tales (Contes immoraux )

2014 was the year when the film going publics interest in Polish filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk[1] was reawakened with a career retrospective Cinemas of Desire: The Films of Walerian Borowczyk ran in May as part of the 12th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival at the BFI in London. Also at the end of same year Arrow released a new box set containing five of his feature films and a collection of his short films. This set of films includes The Beast (La Bete) (1975) which I blogged in January 2011 and Immoral Tales released two years later in 1977.

Bringing to mind the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini especially the feel, camera work and colouring of Salo o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975) with a touch of British filmmaker Ken Russell for good luck, Immoral Tales is an anthology film that includes four separate erotic themed stories each from a different century, which involve the loss of virginity, female masturbation, bloodlust and incest.

Love, with all its pleasure, becomes even more blissful through the way it is expressed’[2]

The first story The Tide is based on a story by Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues which begins with the words ‘my cousin Julie (Lise Danvers) was 16, I was 20, this small age difference made her susceptible to my authority’ The cousins ride to the local beach on their bicycles where the female performs fellatio on her older cousin to the sound of the incoming tide with its crashing waves  and the songs of the sea birds circling overhead.

The Tide. 

The second story Therese Philosophe starts with the following statement ‘the people from our region demand the beatification of Therese H a pious young girl shamelessly raped by a vagrant. Goodness comes by conversing with those who are good. These are the world of the Holy Ghost’. A teenage girl (Charlotte Alexandra) gets locked in her room for dallying to long at the Church. While in the room her sexual desires come to the fore and cucumbers are put to good use!
Therese Philosophe.
The penultimate tale is Erzsebet Bathory in which the Countess (Paloma Picasso[3]) accompanied by her squire visits the villages and settlements of Nyitra County in Hungary collecting virgins who she takes back to her castle. There they are herded into cubicles to shower as part of a ritual that will lead to there death allowing the Countess to bath in their blood to retain immortality. 

Erzsebet Bathory. 

The final story, and probable the most erotic, is Lucrezia Borgia (Florence Bellamy) who in 1498 accompanied by her husband Giovanni Sforza visits her Father Pope Alexander VI and her brother Cesare Borgia and has sex with both. Meanwhile the Dominican Hyeranimo Savonarola accuses the Church hierarchy of dissolution and is burnt to death for his pains. 
Lucrezia Borgia.
This wonderful example of 70’s erotica dwells, as David Thomson opines in his article in Sight and Sound,[4] on nudity and sexual activity, observed unflinchingly and yet with the witty eye of an artistic connoisseur, and stating that it was a challenge both to censors and its arthouse audience. With its grand use of music[5] that matches beautifully the visual screen image, wonderful cinematography by regular contributor Noel Very (among others), composition and period detail and a production by the great Anatole Daman, who has worked with the likes of Godard, Bresson, Wenders, Resnais and Andrei Tarkovsky, we have a film which should be seen and enjoyed by a modern audience to educate what real erotic cinema and human sexuality looks and feels like and not rely on dull nonsense like Forty Shades of Grey to titillate sexual taste buds!

[1] Walerian Borowczyk directed 40 films between 1946 and 1988 settling in Paris in 1959 where he died in 2006 aged 82.
[2] La Rochefoucauld
[3] The youngest daughter of 20th-century artist Pablo Picasso in her only film role.  
[4] David Thompson ‘Forbidden Fruit” Sight and Sound May 2014.
[5] By Maurice LeRoux

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