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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Immoral Tales aka "Contes immoraux" [Blu-ray]

 

(Walerian Borowczyk, 1974)

 

Also available in the Walerian Borowczyk Collection Boxset:

Coming out by Arrow in the US on Blu-ray in September 2015:

NOTE: The US Blu-ray is the exact same a/v encode as the UK but is region 'A' + 'B' and the package contains a second disc DVD. There are also supplement differences (see comments below) including different menus.

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Argos Films

Video: Arrow Video

 

Disc:

Region: 'B' / Region 'A' + 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:43:08.515 (both)

Disc Size: 48,565,467,840 bytes / 45,853,520,777 bytes

Feature Size: 30,206,958,336 bytes / 30,206,958,336 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps (both)

Chapters: 13 / 4

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: September 8th, 2014 / September 15th, 2015

 

Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio (both):

LPCM Audio French 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles (both):

English (where necessary), none

 

Extras:

Introduction by Borowczyk expert Daniel Bird (5:14)

Immoral Tales (L'Age D'or Cut) (1974) (2:05:25)
Love Reveals Itself, a new interview programme featuring production manager Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin and cinematographer Noël Véry (16:43)
A Private Collection (1973) (12:12), presented in the commercially released version and the more explicit Oberhausen cut (14:37)
Boro Brunch, a reunion meal recorded in February 2014 reuniting members of Borowczyk s crew (7:37)
Theatrical trailer (2:12)
Reversible sleeve featuring original poster designs
Collector's booklet

 

Introduction by Borowczyk expert Daniel Bird (5:14)

Immoral Tales (L'Age D'or Cut) (1974) (2:05:25)
Love Reveals Itself, a new interview programme featuring production manager Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin and cinematographer Noël Véry (16:43)

Obscure Pleasures: A Portrait of Walerian Borowczyk, a newly edited archival interview in which Borowczyk discusses painting, cinema and sex (1:03:15)

Blow Ups - a look at Walerian Borowczyk's fine art, including his prize-winning lithographs and poster designs (4:44)

Theatrical trailer (2:18)

Reversible sleeve featuring original poster designs
Collector's booklet

 

Bitrates:

1) Arrow UK - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Arrow US - Region 'A' + 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

Description: Although it has much in common with Walerian Borowczyk s earlier work, Immoral Tales marks the point where his reputation as an arty pornographer began, and was sexually explicit enough to have caused problems with the censors on its original UK release.

It tells four stories revolving around particular taboos (virginity, female masturbation, bloodlust, incest), each delving further back in time, as if to suggest that the same issues recur constantly throughout human history and in all walks of life, whether it s Lucrezia Borgia (Florence Bellamy) or Erzsébet Báthory (Paloma Picasso in her only screen role) or the anonymous teenagers of the earlier episodes.

This high-definition restoration by Argos Films is being released on
Blu-ray with English subtitles for the first time. The film is presented in two versions: the familiar four-part edition, and the original five-part conception, including the short film The True Story of the Beast of Gévaudan that was later expanded into Borowczyk's later feature The Beast. The disc also includes both cuts of A Private Collection (1973), the short film that scandalised film festival audiences with its witty and often graphic study of vintage erotica.

 

 

The Film:

IMMORAL TALES presents a relatively more commercial outing for Walerian Borowczyk by way of producer Anatole Dauman (preceding his ventures into arthouse hardcore with Nagisa Ôshima's IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES and Shûji Terayama's STORY OF O sequel FRUITS OF PASSION) in the form of an portmanteau film of sexual hypocrisy disguised as erotica. In The Tide, based on a story by André Pieyre de Mandiargues (whose novels would provide the source material for Borowcyzk's later LA MARGE/THE STREETWALKER and LOVE RITES), twenty-year-old André (Fabrice Luchini, IN THE HOUSE and BICYCLING WITH MOLIÈRE) takes advantage of his mother's overnight trip to teach virginal sixteen-year-old cousin Julie (Lise Danvers) about the mysteries of the tides. The act of oral sex between literal "kissing cousins" is not so much a sexual initiation as exploitation with André describing the synchronization of his orgasm proclaiming as an exercise in self-control and telling Julie afterward that it was not meant to be fun (for her) but educational. Although the second episode takes its title from the 1748 pornographic novel "Thérèse Philosophe", Borowczyk's slight tale actually features the novel itself as a prop and the events within only vaguely related to the novel's set-up. When Thérèse M. (Charlotte Alexandra, Catherine Breillat's titular A REAL YOUNG GIRL) is late in returning home after Sunday services, her grandmother punishes her by locking her in the attic for three days even though the girl swears that she had remained in the church after mass (which she did, fondling various phallic objects including the bishop's crosier, the base of a statue, and the vibrating pipes of the organ). Left alone with her Stations of the Cross and three ripe cucumbers intended for sustenance, Thérèse soon takes an interest in the military regalia, the broken male doll, and the trunk of corsets which hides a series of erotic photographs. When she stumbles upon a copy of the titular novel, she realizes that near brushes with ecstasy are more carnal than spiritual and undertakes her own deflowering with the help of those cucumbers. Escaping the attic, she rushes headlong towards her fate. Unjustly punished for sexual curiosity, Thérèse M. is put up for beatification when she is raped and murdered by a tramp.

The film's third story was originally The True Story of the Beast of Gévaudan, but Borowczyk would cut that episode to reduce the running time and expand upon the following year as THE BEAST. Instead, the third episode becomes Bathory, the most ambitious and well-realized of the quartet. The pastoral idyll of the Hungarian village of Nyitra is violently disrupted by the arrival of Countess Erzsébet Bathory (Paloma Picasso), her page Istvan (Pascale Christophe, IMMORAL WOMEN), and her guards in search of "simple and honest" young women who the countess will reward on Sunday with the opportunity to experience "eternal joy" in touching her lace and pearl-strewn gown. Bringing the girls (or chattel) back to the castle – which almost resembles a dormitory with group showers upon which the chattering girls scrawl sexual graffiti – Bathory does not have to inflict upon them the tortures documented and exaggerated in historical accounts and fiction. Instead, she lets them rip her lace and pearl gown asunder and then tear each other to pieces to fill her youth-restoring bath; but masculine authority will soon reassert itself through feminine betrayal. The final story, Lucrezia Borgia, is set in 1498 when the very soon-to-be-martyred Dominican friar Savonarola (Philippe Desboeuf, GERMINAL) takes to the pulpit and accuses the church authority of dissolution, which is simultaneously illustrated – with a bit of historical license – when Pope Alexander VI (filmmaker Mario Ruspoli, billed as "Jacopo Berinizi") declares his daughter Lucrezia's (Florence Bellamy, HOLY YEAR) new husband Giovanni Sforza impotent and disposes of him (in real life, the marriage was annulled a few years after the setting of the story and Sforza did accuse his wife of fraternal and paternal incest and his father-in-law and brother-in-law of plotting to kill him once he proved to be less of an asset than thought from his previous marriage to the daughter of Federico I of Mantua). The family line is ensured in a threesome between father, daughter, and son Cesare (Ruspoli's real son Fabrizio). The pope baptizes the child and Savonarola burns at the stake.

Eric Cotenas

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Like the other Walerian Borowczyk films-to-Blu-ray by Arrow, Immoral Tales also gets an impressive transfer in 1080P.  It is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate for the 1 3/4 hour feature. Colors are again passive but fairly rich and there is no noise in the darker sequences. Inconsistencies exits but more in-line with the production - as the second story Therese Philosophe looks rougher because it was shot on 16mm reversal film and blown-up to 35mm. NOTE: In the Age d'Or cut of Immoral Tales, The Beast looks rougher because the only surviving element of the "short" version was a 16mm print (the 35mm negative was utilized for the feature version) - thanks Eric! There is some minor depth in the 1.66:1 frame.  It's pristinely clean showcasing some very pleasing grain textures. This Blu-ray does a wonderful job of presenting the film's video and the effort behind it should be very much appreciated!

 

Exact same video transfer, same source, same bitrate.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Arrow use an authentic linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps in the original, respective French, Italian and Hungarian languages. Dialogue sounds predictably flat. The music in the film is by Maurice Leroux (The Red Balloon, White Mane) and supports the era of each 'episode' sounding, generally, impressive with depth - if flat.  There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Exact same linear PCM audio transfer, same source, optional English subtitles but the US Blu-ray disc is region 'A' + 'B' and offers a second disc NTSC DVD.

 

Extras :

The feature is presented in two versions via seamless branching, the standard cut (1:43:08) – X-rated upon release stateside by New Line Cinema – and The Age d'Or Cut (2:05:25), which featured The Beast of Gévaudan as the film's third story. In the introduction by Daniel Bird – a visual and text essay rather than a talking head piece – he explains that the longer cut won the award named after the early Bunuel film and that Borowczyk cut the third story to reduce the running time (it was shown separately in other film festivals before becoming part of THE BEAST). Bird's essay also describes the splash that the screening of the unconnected prologue A Private Collection, The Tide, and The Beast of Gévaudan episodes made at the London Film Festival and the outrage of conservative papers at the time.

 

The "Love Reveals Itself: Making IMMORAL TALES" featurette includes commentary by cameraman Noël Véry (THE ART OF LOVE) and assistant director Dominique Duvergé (BLANCHE) who recall how the project resulted from a meeting between Borowczyk, producer Dauman, and writer de Mandiargues. Véry describes how shooting was initially behind schedule due to rough weather and the shooting style of Guy Durban (who also shot BLANCHE), as well as how it sped up when Durban had to return to Paris to shoot commercials and Véry started shooting hand-held (years later Véry would be one of the first cameramen to use the Steadicam in France). When production shifted to Sweden for Bathory and Lucrezia Borgia, Véry would work more hands on with replacement cinematographer Bernard Daillencourt (who would shoot Borowczyk's subsequent films up through IMMORAL WOMEN with Véry, as well as the French features of British photographer David Hamilton). Duvergé discusses the casting, including Borowczyk approaching Isabelle Adjani for the role of Julie in The Tide, then-unknown Luchini in The Tide, Picasso (who proved frustrating for a director not accustomed to being contradicted), and filmmaker Ruspoli and his son in the Borgia segment (no mention is made of IMDb's claim that the body double for the girl in the Bathory segment who hides a pearl in her vagina is supposedly Swedish softcore/hardcore actress Marie Forså). Also included is " Boro Brunch: Crew Reunion ", informal 2007 video of cameraman Véry's reunion with Borowczyk crew members including Duvergé, producer Anatole Dauman's daughter Florence, BLANCHE producer Philippe d'Argila (Z) who was also the husband of Borowczyk costume designer Piet Bolscher (LA BELLE CAPTIVE), and THE ART OF LOVE script supervisor Zoe Zurstrassen (who later became a collaborator with Claire Denis from CHOCOLAT to 35 SHOTS OF RUM).

 

Originally included as a prologue to the feature, A Private Collection, a documentary about erotica from drawings to period mechanical amusements, narrated by André Pieyre de Mandiargues, is included here in two cuts: the version more familiar to festival audiences (12:12), and what has been titled The Oberhausen Version which runs about two minutes longer at 14:31 (it features a brief moment of actual bestiality, but that has been blacked out here in accordance with BBFC regulations and with the approval of producer Duvergé). While The Beast of Gévaudan cut only exists as a 16mm copy (the 35mm negative recut for the feature expansion), the Oberhausen version was preserved as the original camera negative while the standard cut was derived from a 35mm internegative source. The booklet that comes with the individual releases was not included for review, but the three-hundred-page-plus tête-bêche-bound book that came with the limited set featured a six-page essay by Daniel Bird and a reprint of a 1976 Philip Strick review on the film (presumably that was filled out with some of the other content from the book which also included short stories by Borowczyk, film-specific essays, and more general essays about Borowczyk's style and themes.

Eric Cotenas

The US Blu-ray version also contains the two versions via seamless branching, the standard cut (1:43:08) – X-rated upon release stateside by New Line Cinema – and The Age d'Or Cut (2:05:25). We get, from the UK edition, the Daniel Bird Intro, trailer and Love Reveals Itself - (see comments above) but we lose A Private Collection and the Boro Brunch reunion supplements. We get, in place, two new additions - the hour-long Obscure Pleasures: A Portrait of Walerian Borowczyk, a newly edited archival interview in which Borowczyk discusses painting, cinema and sex as found as an extra on the UK Blanche Blu-ray disc. Also included is Blow Ups - a 4-minute look at Walerian Borowczyk's fine art, including his prize-winning lithographs and poster designs. I don't have the packaging but assume it will be the same as the UK edition - but it includes an NTSC DVD.

 

Arrow UK - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

Arrow US - Region 'A' + 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
More Borowczyk, partially 'taboo-level' erotic, partially arthouse - filmmaking glory. There is something very 'fresh' about his work. And I mean that in a very positive sense. The Arrow Blu-ray provides an excellent a/v presentation with very appreciated supplements. Like the others in this package Immoral Tales is easy to recommend - most notably the director's following!

 

So the same stellar a/v, and both versions, and two new extras (losing two others.) Now made available Stateside. Great package and very strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

December 14th, 2014

August 26th, 2015

 

Also available in the Walerian Borowczyk Collection Boxset:

Coming out by Arrow in the US on Blu-ray in September 2015:


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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