is the most notorious work from controversial Polish filmmaker Walerian
Borowczyk, who came to fame as an animator in the 1960s, but who ended up directing tacky
softcore porn films in the 1980s (including the utterly diabolical Emmanuelle 5
Before his sorry decline into mediocrity, Borowczyk established himself as the master
of a new brand of surreal eroticism, where pornography meets fine art to create a unique
and utterly bizarre cinematic experience.
is perhaps the prime example of this. It combines anti-bourgeois
black comedy (very reminiscent of the work of French film director Luis Buñuel)
with camp gothic horror and softcore porn. The result ought to be a pretentious,
unwatchable mess, but it isn't. Although it is far from being a great work of cinema,
has an indefinable quality of artistic flair about it, constantly
surprising its audience with its originality and daring. It is also probably the
most explicit depiction of female sexuality in cinema, something which will either delight
or shock anyone watching the film.
The film's pièce de résistance is a flashback sequence which offers a pornographic
re-working of the Beauty and the Beast
tale. Here, a man in an unconvincing
bear costume chases a beautiful young maiden through a sunny glade before confronting
her with a comic phallus of truly monstrous proportions. With its overly explicit
depiction of male and female orgasm, perhaps in the worst possible taste, this sequence
ends up appearing far more like a cheap comical sketch than a serious piece of erotica.
Like most of this film, it really only works if it is seen from a comic perspective.
This is not a film about the horror of bestiality - it is much more about the grotesque
absurdity of human sexuality.
Not surprisingly, the film suffered at the hand of the censors for its graphic depiction
of sex when it was distributed outside of France. In the UK the film was subjected
to substantial cuts, and was soon banned. The film was only released uncut 25 years
after its initial release in France. Even today, the film is still able to surprise
its audience with its daring and sometimes disturbing portrayal of female sexuality.
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