|'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.