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.

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