Combustible Celluloid
With: Thierry Bazin, Bertrand Bonello, Peter Bradshaw, Valerio Caprara, Mark Cousins, Terry Gilliam, Lisbeth Hummel, Neil Jordan, Patrice Leconte, Bertrand Mandico, Cherry Potter, David Thompson, Noël Véry, Andrzej Wajda, Slavoj Zizek
Written by: Marcin Kubawski, Kuba Mikurda
Directed by: Kuba Mikurda
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: English, French, Polish, Italian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 75
Date: 08/21/2020

Love Express: The Disappearance of Walerian Boroczyk (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Beast and Famine

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This scant documentary about the marginalized maverick filmmaker Walerian Boroczyk gets in and out quickly, but still manages to make a reasonable case for Boroczyk as a misunderstood genius. Born in Poland, Boroczyk began as an artist, trained alongside that Polish master Andrzej Wajda. Wajda appears here to tell 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 is also interviewed here, explaining that, while it's difficult to explain exactly what happens in a Boroczyk film, they are nonetheless highly affecting. (Watch it through the Roxie Theater's Virtual Cinema and help keep the theater afloat!)

The doc then charts his move into feature films with the bizarre Goto, Island of Love (1969), and making a splash with Immoral Tales (1973) and The Beast (1975). At that point, he was pigeonholed as an "erotic" director and his work became more surface, with more meddling by others. (As an animator, Boroczyk preferred, above all, working by himself.) Everything slid downhill toward Emmanuelle 5 (1987) and the end of Boroczyk's career. He died in 2006.

Love Express 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 comes up with a fun idea, to have the subjects watching clips and commentating on them in real time. A highlight includes a visit to a warehouse where the Beast costume is stored. On the downside, the movie lacks a discussion about the role of women in erotic films — actor Lisbeth Hummel, from The Beast, is here and still seems to have no idea as to the film's true impact on her life or career — and it also ends very abruptly, as if blaming us in the audience for not understanding Boroczyk's genius sooner. Nonetheless, this is worth a look, for nothing else as a primer and a nice selection of clips from a career that still needs more analysis.

Movies Unlimtied