By: Hooman Razavi
A LOVE EXPRESS: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF VALERIAN BOROWCZYK is a documentary that seems to serve two goals. First, the personal homage of the director, film critic, and academic, Kuba Mikurda to his countrymen giant of cinema and, second, to narrate a story of a director, who once lived a high profile career and symbol of avant-garde cinema. Mikurda's work is set to release the end of August via Joma Film's "Theatrical-At-Home," allowing U.S and worldwide audience to get a glimpse of Walerian Borowczyk stellar, but forgotten contribution to cinema.
The documentary-style is an assemblage of interviews with those who know and collaborated with Borowczyk. From another Polish giant, Andrezej Wajda, who befriended Walerian in the art school back in the 1950s to Terry William, Mark Cousins, Peterbradshaw, and Zizek, who were influenced and critiqued his body of works. The interviews were both informative, scrutinizing, and personal. In one section, his associate cinematographer, Noel Very, commented that outside work, he only had lunch with Walerian once in 20 years. Further, the footages of behind-the-scene filmmaking show a director who personified demurrage. Thus, the personal and selected interviews make the audience to warm up to his film philosophy, style, and eccentricities. The other feature worthy of being brought up is how much Love Express is meditative on the nature of filmmaking and being a director. These metacognitive elements are overt when the image and dialogues expose Walerian ebbs and flows and signature along his cinematic journey, and it is more covertly a reflection on the part of Mikurda, who is obsessed with European cinema, the impact of his countrymen on Polish, French and by extension world cinema.
The narration provides a rich venue for many themes, bold in Borowczyk to be discussed. The audience may be captivated by his work on eroticism, love, and challenging censorship rules of the 1970s. These features are present in all five chapters showing a director who wanted to break boundaries, even though in his own egoistic way. The scenes of Immortal Tales and Goto, along with Lisbeth Hummel's commentary, are self-explanatory and weaved well in the storyline. Nonetheless, these references to the sensual and erotic are not problem-free. In this regard, Mikurda's piece is crafty to show how Borowczyk could use the space to leave his mark on the new erotic and transgressive mode of filmmaking; However, at the same time, as Zizkek brought up, he was also bounded by the force of industry, motivated by profit, and Walerian notion of liberation and erotic freedom driven by patriarchal impulses. One could thus argue that the pornographer label on Borowczyk is unwarranted as he was indeed a revolutionary of his era, especially with his animations and features, but he could not and did not achieve the absolute freedom in the mode of expression and cinematic conceptualization.
In sum, Love Express is fair to show the totality of Borowczyk's career, both the advances and setbacks. His journey, encounters, and shifts in his thinking and filmmaking are well-portrayed. For the film buff living in the digital age, the documentary could be illuminating, reminding the jewels world cinema had and the aesthetic contributions they made. So it is not hard to disagree with him that "He was not a pervert, he just dared to show what others dreamt of- Joy and Pleasure."