The Walerian Borowczyk Collection - Immoral Tales - Blu-ray Review

'Admittedly, this is much more artistically filmed than your average porno; but that doesn't remove the fact that, underneath Borowczyk's eye for a pleasing shot, this is still a porno'.

A clear turning point in the director's body of work, Immoral Tales sees Borowczyk leave behind the clandestine and altogether more subtle nature of his previous film, Blanche, opting for a far more explicit and obscene approach. A compilation of four short films connected through the erotic and morally questionable nature of their stories, Immoral Tales ends up much like many other anthology films as the average of its quartet of narratives.

Considering each tale in turn, the opening story proves in the end to be the film's weakest. "The Tide" focuses on twenty-year-old André (Fabrice Luchini) taking his sixteen-year-old cousin Julie (Lise Danvers) to the beach to elicit sexual acts from her under the thin premise of "educating" her about the tides. It's a sordid little tale of incest which offers practically nothing, aside from a reinforcement of chauvinistic values through such grossly unpleasant phrases as: "You will swallow my living fluid gently and obediently".

Next is "Thérèse Philosopher", a story even simpler in construction than "The Tide" and only marginally more successful. After arriving home late from church, Thérèse (Charlotte Alexandra) is locked in her room where her Christian and sexual thoughts mingle in her mind. Once again, the story seems to have very little of substance behind it, essentially being an excuse for Borowczyk to put on screen an extended sequence of Thérèse pleasuring herself. Admittedly the director does nothing to hide where his story is headed: when Thérèse's mother leaves her some cucumbers for dinner, it doesn't take a great amount of brain activity to work out where Borowczyk's filthy imagination is headed.

The third of the stories focuses upon real historical figure Countess Elizabeth Báthory (Paloma Picasso) of Hungary. It's both the longest and relatively the most successful story presented, with the opening scenes holding the potential to set up a genuinely engaging narrative as the Countess rounds up all the young virgin women of the land. Unfortunately, Borowczyk throws his opportunity away to present what is essentially a lesbian fantasy scenario within a period setting, before rounding the story off with some of Immoral Tales' most surreal and disturbing sequences.

The final story again focuses on a woman from history, this time Lucrezia Borgia (Florence Bellamy). It depicts her debauched sexual relationship with her father, Pope Alexander VI (Jacopo Berinizi), and her brother Caesar (Lorenzo Berinizi); despite emerging as one of the film's stronger segments, it again feels more like thin justification for Borowczyk to direct some filthy sex scenes in the name of art and culture.

Essentially, Immoral Tales is little more than a series of pornographic shorts, with all the substance you'd expect from the sexually explicit genre. Admittedly, this is much more artistically filmed than your average porno; but that doesn't remove the fact that, underneath Borowczyk's eye for a pleasing shot, this is still a porno. The tales move from one to the other in an abrupt, almost amateurish fashion, with Borowczyk making no attempt to segue one segment into the next. The fact that the director includes religion as a prominent theme in two of the four stories hints that he may be trying to make some kind of comment on religion's place in society through those particular tales; but Borowczyk either fails entirely to get his point across or - much more likely - never had a point to begin with. There is undoubtedly some creative flair evident here and there in Immoral Tales, but nowhere near enough to make up for the film's shallow, salacious and disjointed content.




Immoral Tales is available on UK dual format Blu-ray and DVD now.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

Masters Of Cinema #92 - Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari - Blu-ray review

'Wiene reveals his film's twisty ending and plunges you in to a deep pit, just before you realise that something has actually been amiss all along'

I've recently read a book by Dave Trott on marketing and advertising, during which he claims that any one single piece of marketing is worth no more than 5% towards someone's decision to buy or not buy a product. A similar sort of equation appears to apply to Robert Wiene's classic Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari). In no way, by modern standards, would this film be described as scary, but Wiene's film leaves you with a distinct sense of unease, a creepy cloying idea that all is not right with the world, that you might not be safe in your bed tonight. Is it the angular near-cubism of the set design? The black-eye tired make-up of many of the stars? The occasional showy Horror motif that has echoed down the ages, such as the floating entrance of the woman in white, in the background of the first act? It's probably all of those things, all making up small 5% steps until Wiene reveals his film's twisty ending and plunges you in to a deep pit, just before you realise that something has actually been amiss all along.

Wiene implants the idea that all isn't right mainly by the staging created by Hermann Warm, Walter Reimann, and Walter Röhrig. Leading us down tough angular alleys and into the distorted confines of Caligari's (Werner Krauss) caravan-like retreat, Wiene presents to us a world at odds with the one we know. The sets - which are beautiful - have dual purposes, reminding us that we are witnessing a story, set-up in act one as a narrative protagonist Francis (Friedrich Feher) is telling to a visitor. Weine creates a believability to this through the introduction to Francis' town; a picture postscard drawing of angular houses, which fades in and out of the screen, as if from memory. There's more purpose to the genius settings revealed in the final act, but from this point forwards, Weine's key decision is to allow us to forget what we are witnessing, resisting any temptation to return to Francis before the finale. Regardless of purpose: Warm, Reimann and Röhrig's form is perfect, and perfectly used by Wiene and photographer Willy Hameister, who emphasises the contrasts. Watch for a late chase involving Caligari and Francis, where the former reaches an expressionist hill and is promptly framed in gorgeous silhouette.

The design on show is reflected in the more subtle touches of Wiene's film. The intertitles by Katherine Hilliker mirror the apparently random nature of expressionist setting, standing on jagged ends and sloping sides. The make-up, all sleepless blackened eyes and the slightly too-prominent streaks in Caligari's hair, further foster the insinuation that something is amiss.

If that sounds like cold praise - how many people really tune into a film to see what the intertitles are like? - then know that there is a story here which is both well told, compelling, succinctly put, at just 77 minutes, and satisfying, if more than a little bleak. The mastery of multiple narratives Wiene shows belies the film's infatuation with storytelling. Count the number of people telling or part of stories in the film - think of The Grand Budapest Hotel's structure for a recent peer - and you'll find yourself approaching double figures.

Whilst rightly hailed as introducing many of the storytelling elements that would inflect Horror, Noir and other genres for years, perhaps it is the finale that deserves the most praise. Showing a willingness to stand by his mantra that all is not right, Wiede creates a conclusion both surprising, satisfying and meaningful. Caligari's 'now I can treat him' line does also stoop to offer the viewer some hope: at least there may be resolution coming, off-screen.





Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.

Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari is released in the UK on Monday 29th September 2014


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Trailer Of The Week - The Babadook

It's difficult to know what to make of The Babadook from the trailer. On the one hand, there's a lot here which seems pretty similar to other recent horror offerings such as Sinister and Insidious. And yet the fact that the trailer shows you a lot more than most horror trailers generally choose to suggests one of two things. Either this is a poorly made trailer; or - hopefully - there's something more on offer in writer and director Jennifer Kent's feature debut. The buzz around the film at Sundance thankfully makes the latter a bit more likely. Australia has produced a slow trickle of critically acclaimed cinema over the last few years too, adding extra hope for The Babadook being the breath of Antipodean fresh air the horror genre has needed for some time.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

The Walerian Borowczyk Collection - Blanche - Blu-ray Review

'A film with a great deal of lust and sexual power constantly bubbling under the surface, which more than occasionally spills over'.

Despite being only his second live-action feature, Blanche is often considered to be the last film Walerian Borowczyk made before turning his aesthetic interests towards what many would describe as more explicitly erotic, whilst others would simply call pornographic. Proof of where the director's output would end up comes no more bluntly than in his final directorial effort, Emmanuelle 5 - mercifully not included in Arrow Films' Borowczyk Collection. However, with the benefit of hindsight, it's clear to see where the director was eventually headed through much of what Blanche has to offer. This is a film with a great deal of lust and sexual power constantly bubbling under the surface, which more than occasionally spills over.

An adaptation of Juliusz Słowacki's 18th Century play "Mazepa", several of Blanche's key strengths come from Borowczyk's chosen source. The story is a traditional melodrama, with all the exaggerated emotion and tragic deaths you'd expect. The central concept of the innocent, young Blanche (Ligia Branice) being irresistable to all the men surrounding her, and this eventually leading to a number of characters' intertwined demises, is established well enough. Borowczyk's decision to alter the historical setting from Słowacki's original 17th Century Poland to 13th Century France does feel as though it perhaps dampens the amount of dramatic flair the story can deliver however.

Whilst the collective performance from the cast is admirable, Borowczyk's storytelling ability somewhat undermines their work at several points. Blanche never has as serious narrative issues as the director's previous work, Goto, Isle Of Love, but there is an undeniable feeling of flatness during several stretches of the story. The opening half an hour feels the most unsatisfying, with a character who may as well be called Madame Exposition included in the first scene to hit you over the head with several key plot and character points. Allowing animals to roam during several scenes in the first act gives the film a pleasing sense of reality, but the director again lacks subtlety in his animal imagery. Blanche is given a perpetually caged dove as her pet, whilst the lustful King of France (Georges Wilson) is introduced with a monkey on his shoulder, whose behaviour and exploits become more and more audacious throughout the act. Borowczyk's visual metaphors are so conspicuous as to render themselves almost redundant.

Perhaps most damaging to the level of satisfaction Blanche delivers is that, in the end, we're left with nobody to root for. Every male character is revealed as either a philanderer, a bully or both. Blanche herself, meanwhile, is on the receiving end of so much ill-treatment that you genuinely want to be on her side. But the character's ethereal nature, coupled with the fact that she herself is eventually revealed not to be as squeaky clean as we are initially led to believe, means that Borowczyk's film has to conclude in at least a partially unfulfilling manner. There's certainly more within Blanche that works than in Goto, Isle Of Love; but, for a second time, whilst Borowczyk has struck upon a worthwhile story to tell in his film, his approach to the narrative he is relating hinders the success of his final product.




Blanche is available on UK dual format Blu-ray and DVD now.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

The Wind Rises - Blu-ray Review

'a film as in love with flight as it is with people; as emboldened by gigantic ideas as it is by gigantic actions. This is aspiration, not just in form, in what Miyazaki produces, but in concept: aspiration transposed to plot.'

The Wind Rises' magical, dialogue-free opening may be one of the best things I have seen this year, in a film that is up there with the best of 2013. The dreamlike realism, carefully crafted imagery and emotive score all serve to immediately plant you into a world where stunning creations are not just possible but everyday. It is engaging, thought-provoking and inspiring in a way that very few opening salvos ever are, and then writer/director Hayao Miyazaki pulls off a neat trick: he keeps all of that going for some one-hundred and twenty-six minutes.

Miyazaki's narrative aim here seems very clear. With the looming threat of war around the corner, and the inevitable repurposing of central character Jirô's beloved aircraft as weapons, the director wants us to remember a time when flight was less about murder and more about aspiration; a symbol of prosperous economic growth, scientific endeavour and childlike dreaming. The Wind Rises is a film as in love with flight as it is with people; as emboldened by gigantic ideas as it is by gigantic actions. This is aspiration, not just in form, in what Miyazaki produces, but in concept: aspiration transposed to plot.

This alone would be enough for me to declare The Wind Rises an instant hit, but Miyazaki manages two more things that elevate his film substantially. Firstly - and though I am by no means a Ghibli expert, I believe this is something of a staple - the director looks at everything twice through very warm human eyes, and then gives us the ability to do the same. The depiction of an earthquake puts films like 2012 to shame. In Miyazaki's eyes it is a roaring, searing interruption uninvited and unstoppable, a beast on the loose. On a more regular basis his object designs emphasise human characteristics, connecting us to concepts he clearly loves. Planes aren't cold objects any more, they converse with us in soft 'put-put' voices, welcoming us into well-appointed rooms, such as the flowery parlour on Caproni's mega-plane. One of his contraptions starts its engines with what sounds like the beginning of a monastic chant.

The second factor that marks this out not just from other animation but from other films is the subtext-level topics Miyazaki is both aware of and willing to discuss. Japan's economy for example, a subject closely linked to the pre and post-WWII eras, crops up nearly as often as planes do. Caproni, an Italian, talks of 'big dreams' for his workers, planes and business. Is he on the verge of discussing fascism? Marxism? Socialism? In a 'children's film'?! All are possible and all would not even enter the considerations of lesser films and film-makers. Jirô's belief in his creations as just that, as opposed to weapons, is both charming and also deliberately presented as a little naive. Miyazaki may not say it explicitly but there is some criticism here, something which seeps in during Jirô's difficult courting of and relationship with Nahoko.

In a film this beautiful, the wider discussion points almost don't matter, which is why Miyazaki deserves such praise for including them, when he could have easily presented one-hundred and twenty-six minutes of silence and still produced a masterpiece.




The Wind Rises is released in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 29th September 2014.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Transcendence - DVD Review

'By the time Transcendence reaches its climax, it's unlikely you'll be completely clear on either what exactly is going on or why you should care'.

The considerable critical pounding that Transcendence has received since its cinema release earlier this year initially at least seems unfounded, based upon what the film's opening act has to offer. The premise of the story - that of transferring human consciousness to a sophisticated AI computer - is established aptly, as is the conflicted near-future world in which the narrative takes place. Johnny Depp as central figure Dr. Will Caster, whilst not on top form, ensures the character is at least someone whom we understand, even if we're never given a solid reason to care about. Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany support adequately, albeit not entirely memorably, as Will's wife Evelyn and best friend Max respectively. It's a solid if unremarkable opening half an hour; whilst it might not grip you entirely, what's delivered is certainly a believable beginning and sets Wally Pfister's film up with a sound base upon which the director can build.

Sadly, the remaining three quarters of Jack Paglen's script are largely an unengaging mess. Once Will becomes plugged into his own futuristic computer system at the start of the second act, any believability that has been generated essentially goes out of the window. Evelyn undergoes what feels like a near-total personality transplant within the space of a few scenes, with Max also making some decisions that seem drastically out of character from what we've seen so far. Hall's performance becomes artificial and Bettany is largely sidelined; amongst the additional supporting players, Cillian Murphy is completely wasted and Morgan Freeman adds yet another forgettable, uninspired turn to what is now becoming an alarmingly long list for the once reliable veteran. As for Depp, it would be easy to say that his robotic acting from this point onwards is thanks to his character becoming part of a computer system, but that would simply be making excuses for what is arguably the most flat and underwhelming turn from the actor seen in several years.

In terms of plot development, Transcendence's middle section seems to take an age to do very little. After a few questionable leaps of narrative logic, the story becomes stuck in one location showing us the same thing for far too long, turning Pfister's flm into a drawn-out dirge lacking in focus and vitality. By the time Transcendence reaches its climax, it's unlikely you'll be completely clear on either what exactly is going on or why you should care. With ideas similar to those explored in the likes of Lucy (which is somewhat better) and Her (considerably better) earlier this year, at its core Transcendence feels like it held the potential to become an entertaining and intelligent take on what possibilities the technology of the future may hold. In the end, this has far too many severe problems to make it worth recommending even for the most ardent sci-fi fan.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

Love Punch - Blu-ray Review

'a terrible film during which Brosnan could only make his displeasure more clear and obvious to the audience if he suddenly paused and delivered the titular whack to his own face'

Pierce Brosnan's post-Bond career can be broadly categorised into two buckets: films he is interested in and films he is not. Brosnan, like others before him, is not one to hide his displeasure at having to suffer the ignominy of starring in something that is both a) not Bond and b) not very good. A case study can be very neatly concocted here involving Love Is All You Need, a decent film Brosnan commits to and makes better and Love Punch, a terrible film during which Brosnan could only make his displeasure more clear and obvious to the audience if he suddenly paused and delivered the titular whack to his own face.

The primary problem, for what could have fairly easily have been an affable-enough Rom-Com, is tone, something writer/director Joel Hopkins creates for himself by writing in a caper-style heist to his Romance. Having lost the company pension to nefarious businessman Vincent (Laurent Lafitte), divorced Richard and Kate (Brosnan and Emma Thompson, the only person to emerge from this with any credit) head off to warmer climates to attempt to steal a diamond the evil one has gifted to partner Manon (Louise Bourgoin: Adèle Blanc-Sec herself!). Will things go smoothly from here?

The entirely predictable, shallow outcome is waylaid by curious moments of Hopkins apparently forgetting that he has pitched his mature film at a tasteful, mature audience. Somehow, this is a script that includes a moment of toiler humour, as Richard and Kate unconvincingly call their son for some tech advice and are greeted by his room-mate on the loo. Brosnan's face is a picture. If that moment doesn't convince then the tech advice part of the equation - surely a fairly easy staple to add to a script about the older generation - manages to sound even less convincing to even the most ardent of technophiles. 'I'm on the site but I'm being blocked', wails Thompson non-specifically, as product placement for a recognised provider of internet video calls dances on the already thin creative soul of the film.

Things take a spectacular turn for the less convincing and terrifically unfunny when Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie turn up to help with the heist, multiplying the non-heist savvy idiots on show by a factor of two for no real reason. In between such hilarity as watching all four compatriots in black wetsuits, Thompson has to go on Manon's hen do (for extremely ill-defined reasons), whilst sweet moments such as a quiet dinner and Thompson and Brosnan checking into their hotel ('separate rooms') are passed over and forgotten.

Instead of creating character out of the main four then, Hopkins bizarrely treats us to an extended look at the couple's daughter (Tuppence Middleton, who continues to be wasted in nearly everything she has appeared in since Skeletons), who is preparing to leave for University. At least that means she misses the show on offer at home. No such luck for the rest of us.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.