“Love Express: The Disappearance of Walerian Boroczyk”
A Marginalized Maverick
“Love Express” is a documentary about the marginalized maverick filmmaker Walerian Boroczyk that sees him as a misunderstood genius. Born in Poland, Boroczyk began as an artist, trained alongside that Polish master Andrzej Wajda. In the documentary, he tells a story about their teacher proclaiming to the class that Boroczyk was the only one with talent. From there, he went into making bizarre, experimental animated shorts, which inspired Terry Gilliam. Gilliam explains that, while it’s difficult to explain exactly what happens in a Boroczyk film, they are nonetheless highly affecting.
The documentary then loos at his move into feature films with the bizarre “Goto, Island of Love” (1969), and “Immoral Tales” (1973) and “The Beast” (1975). He was pigeonholed as an “erotic” director and his work became more surface, with more meddling by others. Everything slid downhill toward “Emmanuelle 5” (1987). He died in 2006.
Director Kuba Mikurda brings in interviewees, filmmakers and experts (mostly male) from all over the world, from Neil Jordan to Patrice Leconte, who worked as an assistant to Boroczyk. Mikurda’s subjects watch clips and comment on them in real time. However, the movie lacks a discussion about the role of women in erotic films. Regardless, this is a primer and a nice selection of clips from a career that still needs more analysis.
Borowczyk was a writer/director of unparalleled sensuality, unequalled in the 1970s for his work on sexual freedom, but who was later labelled as an erotic filmmaker. His career was short but impactful. By interviewing long-time collaborators, peers and fans of his work, Kuba Mikurda gives us rare insight into the director’s art which poses questions on society’s relationship with love and hate and the boundaries of artistic freedom and the film is a celebration of Borowczyk’s enigmatic and often controversial career.
“Love Express” follows a fairly conventional (documentary-film) formula: it’s constructed from archive footage of Borowczyk at work and in interview, as well as contemporary interviews from those who knew him or his work. Long-time collaborator Noël Véry – who acted as a camera operator in many of Borowczyk’s films and was one of the people closest to him leads and stays with us throughout the movie.
Borowczyk was an animator – an identity which he never truly shed – manipulating and fetishizing objects and a live-action director (manipulating and fetishizing his actors as he once did his animations). He was considered by many to be a pornographer. Throughout the film’s five chapters (each detailing particularly important years and movies) we hear from a mix of people, all with varying interests in Borowczyk’s work. The interviews themselves are incredibly well-conducted; informative, absorbing, well-shot and with excellent sound quality. Visual flourishes to illustrate the voiced opinion, in addition to keeping the viewer entertained. The real success of the documentary is that it brings to lightthe unique and often misunderstood talent of one of cinema’s most infamous and enigmatic filmmakers. I knew very little about Borowczyk or his process going into this movie but by the end, I left feeling enlightened and determined to find his older works.
A lot of time is devoted to “Emmanuelle 5.” Although he’s credited as the director he walked off the set a few days into filming. Reportedly the only footage of his is Love Express, the film within the film from which this film takes its name.