Walerian Borowczyk

film 4 of 5

Un Collection Particuliere

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

We’ve skipped over a number of Borowczyk’s feature films now, and are finding him on the brink of a new phase in his career. He’s been thinking and communicating in this register, but going forward it’s going to look like he’s a plain pornographer. Or maybe an extremely artful, intertextual plain-pornographer. Is this film that? Well kind of, and then again not at all.

That might well sound like moral equivocation, which is fair. Go ahead and remove yourselves, and very welcome. On the other hand, words—”obscenity,” for instance—mean something, and can lead productively to broader conversations. So it is, I think, with this very striking collection of erotic objects.

There’s a cabinet of curiosities for you. It’s quite exquisitely framed and assembled. The eastern-European avant-garde habit of obscuring or cutting off faces has a new aspect here. Except that this isn’t just the furtiveness you might expect. The thing is, these objects were created with a resourcefulness similar to the Eames’ trains! (Toccata for Toy Trains, q.v.) From similar materials too. And in their own way, in their own developmental aspect, are they not as connected to our lives and interactions? That last magic lantern show could even have been joyful, if it had only ended with the consummation that most of us would rejoice to admit can be so joyful.

Ah, but then there’s that donkey. Instructive! It’s not just the thing, or even the inclination to linger on the thing. It’s how the thing and the lingering lead so easily to excess and dire proliferation.

But even here there’s instruction, and poignancy too. If viewed by an addict, addictively, Un Collection Particuliere seems absolutely to be an emblem of the problem. It’s even the problem itself, if a fairly mild manifestation thereof. As such its excess actually ends in self-loathing, even a Carnal-Knowledge kind of impotence (Nichols/Feiffer, 1971). Can we ever step outside of all of that? Dare we try? Well, yes. Strangely enough, and it’s even silly, this expert assembly made me think of Sam Gamgee helping poor Frodo, as he reached for that infernal ring. I can’t feel it myself, but I can see your agony! So racked, and so close to safety. Interesting stuff!