Monday, 1 June 2015

Immoral Tales




Topless N’ Tales

Immoral Tales
France 1974
Directed by Walerian Borowczyk
Arrow FIlms
Blu Ray Zone B/DVD Region 2

So, not long after seeing a selection of Borowczyk’s Short FIlms and Animations (reviewed here), I decided to give the director’s infamous Immoral Tales a spin, seeing as Arrow have nicely put out an uncut version in a groovy dual Blu Ray/DVD edition. And, yes, you guessed it, Fopp are selling this at a value for money price too, at the moment... just in case my motivations needed any extra explanation.

Before I go any further, though, I should probably post a fair warning to people who buy these things and love the medium here. Unlike most labels which will let you know and, in some cases, insult the stupid copyright holders who are insisting on their films being released in a Region specific format (I love The Masters Of Cinema’s region warning screens), Arrow’s blu rays do not warn you that you are trying to watch their films in a different region... they will simply just not load up and refuse to play. It took me a couple of days to figure out that there wasn’t anything wrong with the disc and I’d left the Blu Ray setting on Zone A. Frankly, I find this practice unacceptable and I would say that if you are a company who is being forced to comply with this horrible practice of Region locking your product you, at the very least, should let people know on screen so they know to buy a multiregion machine. Also, as a label, you can stop pretending you’re in any way interested in promoting the art of film if you agree to restrict access to a potential audience like this.

Now, back to the movie.

When I did finally get this thing playing, I found that the disc doesn’t just contain an excellent transfer of the original release of Immoral Tales, a film consisting of four erotic sections. It also contains a copy of the early print of the film from when it had five segments in it. The extra segment in the original was called The True Story of the Beast of Gevaudan and it was basically taken out before release because the director wanted to expand it into what became, probably his most famous movie, The Beast. So there’s that. Arrow have done a good job here... although they let themselves down a bit on another extra but... I’ll get to that later.

1. The Tide
The film in its theatrical version starts off with an episode called The Tide. This is the story of a young man (Fabrice Luchini) and his even younger, adolescent cousin (Lise Danvers) who he takes to a beach so he can introduce her to sex or, in this case, so he can arrogantly bend her to his will and have her service him orally on a secluded beach with the tide coming in, while he distracts and prolongs his self control by reciting facts about the oncoming tidal situation. He aims to come in her mouth, he tells her, at a specific time into the proceedings and in accordance with the tidal timetable we saw him covertly  rip from a newspaper in an earlier part of the film. Actually, the whole gameplay element to the  piece and the way the male character wraps everything up in a statistical package very much reminded me of the early work of Peter Greenaway... although that’s probably the only real similarity between the two directors.

The Tide starts off with static shots showing two sides of a conversation but, after a short while, the camera starts moving around and it seems to me to be a pattern, at least I thought so and especially in regard to this film, that this director likes to observe things from afar, like a long shot series of master shots, before he starts to get closer to his subjects in whatever environment they find themselves. Like the static shots of a landscape shown in longshot while the moving elements of the shot are the 20 year old man and his 16 year old cousin, as they ride their bikes towards the camera... or, the inverse of that, cutting to another long shot where they diminish in distance and size as the sequence plays out.

Even before the rules of the game are explained to his cousin, the director is focussing on body parts whenever he does decide to get in close to his subjects... displaying a propensity to concentrate on a sexualised or erotically perceived view of his cast in what might at first seem an innocent scenario. So he might focus on a lady’s butt as she rides a bike or on her lips etc... which is in turn enhanced in this particular segment by a colour palette consisting of pastel blues, white and grey neutral tops worn by the two characters, landscape greys and washed out sand colours... all complementing the flesh tones of the actor and actress. There is an impressive and extended shot, for instance, where the teen in question is playing with her finger in her mouth and the whole thing plays in extreme close up of just her lips and finger as it weaves in and out of her mouth, covered with her own saliva. It’s a shot with a certain amount of presence and I guess a lot of people must have thought the same thing because it was used as the basis of many of the original advertising posters for the film in various countries back in 1974 and, indeed, on the Arrow Blu Ray/DVD release that it’s currently on sale with.

This kind of focussing in on specific details is also matched at times in the sound design, such as when a close up of the girl’s ear when she is servicing her cousin is followed by a shot of flying insects and accompanied by bird song on the soundtrack... as if to highlight a point of view sympathetic to the body part the director has just chosen to edit into the sequence. We also have the sound of the constant lapping of the sea, of course, as a backdrop to the sexual shenanigans afoot and I have to say I admire the two performers' bravery in letting the sea come in and wash over them while they are writhing all over the place... hopefully it wasn’t too cold and gruelling for them. And always throughout, the director keeps cutting in views of the landscape in juxtaposition to what’s actually going on with the two figures... Borowczyk seems quite tuned in to constantly reminding you of the character’s place in their landscape. Like an obsession with establishing shots gone mad.

2. Therese Philosophe
After The Tide we have the second segment called Therese Philosophe and this concerns the character Therese, played by Charlotte Alexandra, and her relationship with religious iconography. That is to say, the episode starts off with her entering a church... She is alone and starts exploring the various elements in the room with her hands, obviously infused with lust at the sexual possibilities of assorted knobs, posts, organ pipes etc. When her mother catches up to her, she pulls her home and locks her in a room as punishment for what her mother perceives are her wrong doings.

Therese yells at her mother that she can’t be without her book of Stations of the Cross and after a short while her mother throws it into the makeshift prison for her, along with some food mostly comprising of uncut cucumbers... yeah, you can see where this one is going straight away, can’t you?

The girl then starts exploring all the artefacts in the room with the same fervour and sexual attitude as she did those in the church and it’s here that I was struck by the similarities between Borowczyk’s live action features and animated shorts. His films are as much about people exploring objects as they are about interacting with each other... it’s almost, at some points, like we are not watching live, flesh and blood performers but puppets or cut outs that Borowczyk can move around the screen however he wants. Now, of course, many people would approve of this notion, especially directors (I’m sure Hitchcock would have approved of this guy’s methods of film making, in some ways) and I’m certainly sympathetic to the idea that the actors are clay to be moved around by the director... it’s not the only way to work but it can be an effective way of creating, depending on what’s appropriate to a piece and your approach to it. However, the downside can be what you get in film like this which is... no matter how sympathetically some of the characters may be portrayed, there’s a feeling of disconnection being projected by the final product. No emotion or empathy coming through from the performers as they are rigidly straight jacketed by the directorial style.

Now I really don’t mind this... it’s not an issue for me and, depending on what else is on offer in a film, won’t necessarily detract from my viewing experience... but I do suspect some people may find Borowczyk’s films unnecessarily cold in places. I’m cool with it though.

Back to the specifics of the episode... when Therese finds a lewdly illustrated book, it further fans the flames of her desire so she gets her kit off and before you know it, she is laying face down on the bed, taking in all the religious paraphernalia and making full use of those cucumbers... and when I say full use, I’m sure my readers will understand that her mouth is not the orifice she is most using to reap the full benefit of this largely unsung vegetable. It’s interesting that Borowczyk takes a swipe at religion by sexualising it in this manner and he does so again, later in the movie... but I’ll get to that in a while.

There is one final thing of note on this segment, however. When the girl finally escapes the confines of her imprisonment, through a first story window, she moves away from the camera again in a static longshot which sees her blending into the distance. Again, it’s a similar style of fixing the characters in space that the director used in the first segment.

Now, in the original, unreleased version of the movie, The True Story of the Beast of Gevaudan came in as the third segment but, since it’s not in the theatrical cut to the movie, I’ll wait and review this segment last in the running order here, as an add on. So that means the next part of the movie, in its theatrical edition (and using that word loosely due to probable censorship issues over the years in various countries), is Erzebet Bathory.

3. Erzebet Bathory
Okay, we all know the story of this character by now. A large section of the British public probably know of her as Elizabeth Bathory and her story of cruelty and bathing in the blood of her tortured female victims to ensure her youth has been rendered in cinematic tales loads of times... with perhaps the most well known of a large batch being Ingrid Pitt’s go at her for Hammer in Countess Dracula (reviewed here).

Borowczyk’s version takes out the scenes of brutal torture, only glancing sideways and leaving these aspects of the story left to your imagination, somewhat, instead concentrating on the spectacle of the sexuality. And he’s got a pretty famous lady playing Bathory herself for his vignette about the legendary character... Paloma Picasso. Yeah, that’s right... Pablo Picasso’s daughter, no less. This film also concentrates on the fear that the reputation the lady in question bings, as she stops at a local village to pick up supplies... and when I say supplies I mean supplies of young, virginal women to have sexy times with. Supplies! Supplies! The unexpected hits them between the eyes. You can bet it does when a whole bunch of them goes back to Bathory’s castle for what amounts to a naked inspection, a long group shower and an orgiastic.. um... orgy of some sorts.

Again, some familiar signature items seem to be appearing and painting a picture of the director’s stylistic leanings here. Once again he focuses on various anatomical features... such as peoples eyes looking on in fear. Picasso’s eyes are even framed as a kind of strip of a section of her face, Sergio Leone style, at one point. There are countless shots of various sexualised body parts too, of course, and at one point Bathory spies on the many showering girls as they lather up their enthusiasm... various moments pitched against shots of her eyes to demonstrate the voyeuristic aspect of the scene. Of all the segments in this movie, this really is a celebration of women’s body parts and the amount of nudity in here is astonishing.

The narrative gets a bit jumpy at some point here. Bathory gives the many young ladies a swig of a special drink she’s concocted and throws herself to them. They all go about ripping her dress off and doing unspecified sexual stuff with her in some kind of mass, frenzied jumble of highly photogenic flesh, from what I could make out. For an actress who is the daughter of the man who popularised cubism, she’s less of a square than you might imagine. Then, after she leaves her ladies of choice, they all seem to start getting more wild and violent and streaks of blood begin to show where they start clawing at each other... I think. It’s not really dwelled on in any kind of detailed way but the implication is it must be bad because the next time we see Bathory, she is bathing in a big bath of blood... presumably culled from the many girls. And then, after one more scene of implied sexuality, there’s one last little but significant part to the ending of the tale... but I really don’t want to spoil that here... partially because I don’t want to give spoilers and partially because, frankly, in a film of this nature, it’s pretty much the only thing that could conceivably be considered a spoiler. These vignettes really don’t have much in the way of plots, to be sure.

4. Lucrezia Borgia
So the last segment is a scenario where Lucrezia Borgia, played by a truly stunning looking lady called Florence Bellamy, goes and visits the pope and his aide, where she disposes of her lover and has all kinds of sex with the two heads of the church, simultaneously. Like Borowczyk’s early animations, he shows a fascination for the scrutiny of objects and illustrations, making his characters interact with their environment as much as they interact with each other. The Pope shows Lucrezia various pictures of horses genitalia and the study of this phenomenon gets her juices up and kick starts the sex that follows. Like the second chapter in this collection, the director seems intent on ridiculing and tearing apart religious iconography... and you can’t get to be too much more of a religious icon, in this day and age, than the Pope, I guess.

Now, as I said earlier, Arrow's fantastic Blu Ray and DVD restoration transfer of this film comes with a nice little collection of extras and includes another version of the movie, this time with the basis for his next feature, The Beast, which he released as an expansion of this unreleased segment a year later.

2B. The True Story of the Beast of Gevaudan
Okay, it’s been a few years since I watched my 3 disc US restoration of The Beast but I’m pretty sure that most, possibly all, of the footage in this segment was retained and used in the later version of the movie. It’s basically the key scene or punchline scene (or possibly money shot scene if you want to push the metaphor to its logical conclusion) of that later film and, frankly, I think I possibly prefer it in this shorter, to the point, variant than the final feature version... although that version is not also without its charm.

The segment starts of with a slow zoom-in on a highly picturesque building and then pans down to the windows to show a woman inside playing her harpsichord. A young sheep tethered outside the house escapes and wanders off into the forest and she runs out and gives chase. An interesting thing to note is that the harpsichord music continues so, it’s an example of one of those fairly uncommon occurrences in cinematic history where a piece of diegetic music (music from an on screen source) on the soundtrack suddenly turns in to a piece of non-diegetic music (a composition composed to accompany, comment or support the scene) without calling attention to itself. This is good stuff.

As she runs through the woods, hot on the trail of her fleecy friend, she is spotted by some kind of man-beast creature who lusts after her with his massive, horse-like organ... chasing after her in order to have his wicked way with her. It has to be said that, for its time and almost even by today’s standards, the “man in suit” nature of the beast is very well done and it’s really not hard to suspend your disbelief. As our heroine continues running through the forest, various branches and conveniently placed twigs conspire to pull the girls clothing from her as she runs... look, I never said this wasn’t implausible and, seriously, beyond corny... but it’s a curious mix of a film. Mostly because this episode is all about bestiality and a whole load of body fluid spillage on the part of the beast. His enthusiasm throbs and dribbles beast-juice throughout the majority of the segment.

Now this film was banned in a lot of countries for years, from what I can recall, so I find it bizarre that it’s suddenly okay in the UK... where bestiality is a big ‘no no’ with the censors... or more probably with the obscene publications act... for this film to be suddenly accepted again. If you can get over the fact that this is about a big beast who rapes a woman before the woman starts getting into it and becomes a complicit lover, killing the beast with the consequences of his spent lust, then it actually becomes quite a ridiculously comical and entertaining piece. For instance, while she flees and throws her old timey wig at him, the beast (after much rubbing and dripping of his enormous beasthood) starts having sex with her wig. When she tries to escape by climbing from a tree and is caught hanging from a branch trying to get away, the pummeling of her fleeing feet on his huge pole of lustiness fans his hairy fervour even more and results in a lot more body fluid spillage.

Once the lady has sampled our hairy, beary antagonist’s unfiltered lust, she sheds more clothes and starts getting into it (oh right, it’s written and directed by a male, I get it), giving the titular character a hand/blow job and ushering in its doom... burying it in autumnal leaves after the “one sex act too far” is finished. Like I said, I prefer this cut without all the preamble of the feature length version of this film... at least until I get around to watching that one again, anyway.

And that’s about it as far as this movie goes. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this spectacle of sexuality and, although some of the acting is quite terrible, it’s well put together, nicely composed, well lit and has a keen eye for detail imbued in it by the director. It’s a well put together film and the Arrow release is almost perfect. Almost because, there’s just one thing I didn’t understand... especially in light of the inclusion of The True Story of the Beast of Gevaudan on here. Bestiality is very much a big problem over here (and probably is in most countries, I would think) but there is an extra short film on here by Borowczyk called A Private Collection. It’s a documentary style narrative of a man, possibly the director, showing off his various sexual illustrations, curios and gadgets which he’s collected over the years and it certainly continues to highlight Borowczyk’s obsession with the pursuit of objects on screen. However, the distributors have also seen fit to include the rarer, slightly longer by a few minutes, alternate uncut version of A Private Collection on here too. The Oberhausen Cut, as it’s known, includes archival silent film footage of a woman having sex with a dog. However, because of the censorship issues, the scenes in question have been blacked out. Is it just me or does anyone else find it weird that they would bother to release an uncut version of the film and then censor all the bits that were cut from it in the first place? This seems complete madness.

All in all, though, apart from that bizarre ‘about turn’ on one of the extras, the UK Arrow release of Borowczyk’s Immoral Tales is a film I might possibly hesitate to recommend to most people but is also a film that I mostly enjoyed and will probably watch a few more times in my lifetime... if I can find that time. It’s filled with stunning women and there are very few characters you don’t see in a state of undress, if that’s what floats your boat. A problematic film in terms of moral judgements but, hey, the clue is in the title, I reckon. I think each potential, individual viewer can probably make up their own mind about whether they want to see this or not... and not leave that decision in the hands of the hateful, art destroying censors. Give it a go... or not... but certainly a disc I don’t regret buying at all.

10 comments:

  1. As the co-producer of this Blu-ray, I'm very grateful for the positive review of the film, but I have a couple of quibbles about your comments about the disc.

    First of all, your comment “Also, as a label, you can stop pretending you’re in any way interested in promoting the art of film if you agree to restrict access to a potential audience like this” manages to be both personally offensive towards both me and my colleagues and incredibly naïve about how this business works. Arrow only licensed the UK rights for this title, and so Argos Films’ reasonable response to a request for permission to make the disc region-free would be “That’s fine, provided you license the film for a Region A territory as well”. But since this would significantly increase the budget of what was already a very expensive project (so expensive that Daniel Bird and I spent years shopping it around various labels before Arrow took it on), this was clearly out of the question. Argos isn’t going to budge on this (why would they?), so the alternative is between putting out region-locked discs or not releasing ‘Immoral Tales’ at all - and the same goes for ‘The Beast’, ‘Goto’ and many, many other internationally attractive titles. Which would you have honestly preferred?

    As for bestiality, whether or not it’s “okay” depends entirely on whether it’s footage of actual bestiality or whether it’s been simulated. If the former, under British law (specifically the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, section 63d), it qualifies as “extreme pornography” and even possession is illegal. Simulated bestiality, on the other hand, isn’t covered by the law, so it’s down to BBFC policy at the time - and with regard to ‘The Beast’ back in the 1970s, their problem wasn’t so much to do with the bestiality itself (documents from the time make it clear that they were fully aware that the beast was a man in a suit, and that this would be obvious to anyone watching the film) as to do with the sexual explicitness in general, particularly the moments when the beast gets, erm… over-excited. But following the great BBFC liberalisation of 2000, where they adopted a new policy of not censoring films for adults unless there were specific legal reasons for doing so, there was no good reason to continue denying the film a classification, and ‘The Beast’ was duly passed uncut in 2001. In fact, it was one of the first high-profile test cases submitted after the 2000 liberalisation. (There’s a very detailed account of all this in the booklet accompanying Arrow’s release of ‘The Beast’.)

    However, with the longer cut of ‘A Private Collection’ there’s no doubt at all that the bestiality is genuine, and so the criminal law comes into play. However, contrary to your claim that we’ve censored “all the bits that were cut out from it in the first place” and hyperbolically denouncing this as “complete madness", there are in fact quite a few other differences between the two cuts - most notably the scene in which an album of pornographic photographs is examined. In the shorter version, the photographs have been “censored” by strategically-placed fingers and thumbs, but in the longer version you get to see everything. Also, when we examined the 35mm materials we discovered that the Oberhausen cut comprised the edited original camera negative while the shorter cut was sourced from a duplicate element, with the result that the Oberhausen version looks very slightly better. So while we did debate leaving it off the disc altogether, we decided that there were too many good reasons for including it - not least scholarly/historical ones.

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  2. Hi Michael,

    First of all, thanks for your comments and thanks for taking up some of your time reading.

    In terms of your first paragraph... in an ideal world, which is the one I aspire to be living in, the answer is you don't restrict access on a region/zone basis. I'm not particularly naive about the business side of this actually... just need to keep drumming away at this because I (and a lot of people I know, actually) feel it's wrong. It's basically censoring art. If it costs a lot more then so be it... but it shouldn't have to and at the end of the day, I don't feel it's right. But, let me assure you, no offence was intended.

    Second paragraph. Yeah, that's interesting. I didn't realise simulated was any different from practice in the eyes of the law because, um, my understanding of the Dangerous Pictures Act, for instance, is that simulated is just as prosecution worthy as real... unless it's somehow passed by the BBFC and then they turn a blind eye? I find it all a bit strange to be honest. Not a fan of bestiality myself but don't like censored art. I'm still on the fence about getting the Arrow version of The Beast and don't usually have time to read the booklets.

    Okay, I have to hold my hands up to your third point. I only watched the Oberhausen version, I didn't realise there was also alternate footage. But, I think, my preference would be again... I would rather see a complete version over a censored version (I rarely watch a film if I know it's been censored which is why, for instance, I've never seen The Fight Club... I didn't want to spend money importing an uncut version from the US on a film I might not like and passed on it at the cinema due to the cuts.).

    But I take your point on that third and am really glad you felt it worth your time to put the record straight for my readers. You've also done it in a very polite and cordial manner which, as you probably know, a lot of people may not bother to do.

    Thanks again fro taking the time to read this blog, which I only have a couple of hours a day to watch films for, do any writing and, if I'm lucky, get a post up (it's my passion, I have a full time job in another field). It's much appreciated that you have come on here to give your reviews and defend against any of my comments which have rankled. Very much appreciated sir.

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  3. In terms of your first paragraph... in an ideal world, which is the one I aspire to be living in, the answer is you don't restrict access on a region/zone basis. I'm not particularly naive about the business side of this actually... just need to keep drumming away at this because I (and a lot of people I know, actually) feel it's wrong. It's basically censoring art.

    I’m sorry, but it really, really isn’t. First of all, it’s easy enough to get around the problem by buying a multi-region player, so there’s no “censoring” in the sense of making the material permanently unavailable to those who want to see it. Secondly, there’s a completely rational business case for region-locking, which is that at a time when margins have never been tighter in this business, rightsholders want to be able to realise as much income from their assets as is possible - and it’s obviously far better if they can license them to multiple territories instead of just the one. They’re the people who own the films, and in the case of Argos they’re also the people who took on the financial risk of making the films in the first place, so I completely understand why they’d be happier if the people who licensed the UK rights restricted circulation to within the UK. (Obviously, they’re not naïve enough to be ignorant of multi-region players and importing, but they’re not especially common, particularly in the US, so not a major concern).

    A few years ago I worked on a similarly expensive multi-title restoration project. The UK label funded the bulk of it, but needed top-up funds from other sources, which were obtained by selling the rights to different territories in advance of the project’s completion. The deal we reached was broadly along these lines: the UK disc would come out first, but would be region-locked to prevent (or significantly reduce) importation to the US. Similarly, the US release was region-locked because of the possibility that they might use this extra time to improve on the UK disc. And while the French disc would have the same region code as the UK disc, the menus, booklet and packaging would all be exclusively in French - and similarly, the UK and US discs would be exclusively in English. We were all happy with that, so the project went ahead. I’m sure we’d all have preferred our own releases to be region-free and with multiple language options, but that just wasn’t realistic given that we needed each other’s financial support for the releases to happen at all.

    In other words, this is purely a rational business deal, “censoring art” has nothing to do with it. And I guarantee that you’d want a similar deal if you were a similar position, especially if you were the one who’d ponied up most of the upfront cash.

    The biggest problem, though, is that you’re “drumming away” at the wrong people. Distributors have no choice - or rather, they can choose between region-locking or not releasing the film at all. And if the title is commercially attractive, the rightsholder will simply approach a rival label who’s happy to accept their terms. A few years ago someone concocted a fantasy of all labels banding together and refusing to license anything that was compulsorily region-locked, but that would never work because many distributors are also rightsholders, so region-locking is very much in their interests. (Tellingly, Warner Bros doesn’t region-lock its own discs, but forced the BFI to do so when they sub-licensed ‘The Devils’ and ‘Revolution’, and there are many, many similar examples.)

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  4. Second paragraph. Yeah, that's interesting. I didn't realise simulated was any different from practice in the eyes of the law because, um, my understanding of the Dangerous Pictures Act, for instance, is that simulated is just as prosecution worthy as real... unless it's somehow passed by the BBFC and then they turn a blind eye? I find it all a bit strange to be honest. Not a fan of bestiality myself but don't like censored art. I'm still on the fence about getting the Arrow version of The Beast and don't usually have time to read the booklets.

    By the “Dangerous Pictures Act”, I assume you mean the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act? Because the crucial legal test here is "and a reasonable person looking at the image would think that the [participants] were real.” Clearly, this doesn’t apply to either version of ‘The Beast’, as no sane person could possibly think that this depicted actual bestiality (and certainly not a twelve-strong jury if it came to that) - although it does raise an interesting legal question of what would happen if we could somehow prove that the dog in the Oberhausen cut of ‘A Private Collection’ was in fact an animatronic creation. It may well be the case that this would make no difference in the eyes of the law - although it’s a moot point because it’s so obviously a real dog that the question doesn’t arise. (I can’t think of any test cases along similar lines.)

    Incidentally, the booklet for ‘Immoral Tales’ (page 23) explains the differences between the two versions of ‘A Private Collection’.

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  5. Okay, I have to hold my hands up to your third point. I only watched the Oberhausen version, I didn't realise there was also alternate footage. But, I think, my preference would be again... I would rather see a complete version over a censored version (I rarely watch a film if I know it's been censored which is why, for instance, I've never seen The Fight Club... I didn't want to spend money importing an uncut version from the US on a film I might not like and passed on it at the cinema due to the cuts.).

    Although in this case we’re not talking about the main feature - merely a much less familiar alternative cut of one of the short films. In other words, as peripheral as extras get!

    As I said, we did think long and hard about whether or not it was worth including the Oberhausen cut - but we concluded that because it’s clearly a separate work in its own right (i.e. more than just a longer version, since individual shots are different) and because it’s a historically important document that we might as well go for it. There seems to be a general acceptance even amongst the most doggedly anti-censorship campaigners that we had no choice but to remove the bestiality footage - in many ways, stuff like this is easier to deal with than BBFC value judgements because the law is so completely unambiguous. As far as it’s concerned, it’s not “art”, it’s a recording of a crime being committed - the laws on animal cruelty and sexual activity involving children operate on a similar basis.

    Although, that said, the BBFC was very helpful. The German release of ‘Immoral Tales’ includes the same short, and also censors the offending footage, including the very last shot of the sequence where the woman is towelling herself between her legs and the dog is still visibly aroused (and dripping…). I was very keen to retain this shot, because by retaining the first and last shots of the sequence it becomes obvious what was happening in the middle, and so I argued that because the dog and the woman were no longer in contact with each other there was no legal problem any more. Fortunately, the BBFC agreed. We also decided to black out the offending shots rather than simply cut them (a) to draw attention to the fact that they’d been cut, as that’s a story in itself, and (b) to preserve the original editing rhythms and soundtrack, to at least enable the viewer to provide his or her own mental images at the appropriate time (quite easy to do in this case, as it’s completely obvious what’s happening).

    It’s all very well being purist, but the only possible way of releasing the Oberhausen version uncut would be following a change in the law - and the chances of that happening are as close to nonexistent as to be not worth discussing. And our priority is to make this stuff available now, not wait decades for something that may well never happen at all.

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  6. Hi again,

    Not attempting to be a purist, honest guv'nor. Just would have at least been nice to have been warned regarding the Region locking when it wouldn't play, like other labels, rather than assume I had a defective disc of some kind.

    I don't read all the notes, partially because I don't have time (see my earlier comment) and partially because I don't want anyone else's views to change mine... this clearly wasn't a case on the factual evidence printed in said booklet but I'm still glad I mentoined it, to be honest.

    I was talking about the Dangerous Pictures act from a few years ago? I find they all kind of blend into one in terms of their ultimate goal and end result.

    Yes, I think even the lowliest of porn can be art... you have to make artistic decisions like where to place the camera, what the lighting's like (and in some cases that can be as simple as "Oi, Fred. You want the lights switched on for this next shot") but I think it all still counts.

    I wouldn't particulayr want to see the offending scenes in a film like Cannibal Holocaust in its complete form, for example... but if I was going to watch it, then it would be the complete, uncut I would go for.

    Again, sorry to have offended with my comments and opinions. My apologies, once again.

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  7. Not attempting to be a purist, honest guv'nor. Just would have at least been nice to have been warned regarding the Region locking when it wouldn't play, like other labels, rather than assume I had a defective disc of some kind.

    The sleeve and the disc label clearly state that it’s Region B. I’m surprised that there wasn’t an explicit Region B announcement on the disc itself, to be honest, as that’s standard practice for Arrow - but I’ll take your word for it.

    I was talking about the Dangerous Pictures act from a few years ago? I find they all kind of blend into one in terms of their ultimate goal and end result.

    I’ve done a bit of Googling, and it seems that the “Dangerous Pictures Act” is a sarcastic term for Section 63 of the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, the full text of which is here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2008/4/section/63

    Yes, I think even the lowliest of porn can be art... you have to make artistic decisions like where to place the camera, what the lighting's like (and in some cases that can be as simple as "Oi, Fred. You want the lights switched on for this next shot") but I think it all still counts.

    But British law doesn’t recognise this. Or rather, the 1959 Obscene Publications Act does (in fact, the OPA’s famous “artistic merit” defence has been very useful indeed over the years), but the 1937 Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act, the 1978 Protection of Children Act and the above-mentioned “Dangerous Films Act” don’t.

    You have the luxury of being able to argue whether or not it’s art from an abstract philosophical perspective, but I have to approach it from a hard-headedly practical and pragmatic one. Namely, if it’s legally impossible to release a film in its full form, is that sufficient justification for keeping it out of circulation altogether?

    The mere fact that Borowczyk himself prepared a milder cut of ‘A Private Collection’ and even shot alternative "softcore" footage at the time of production suggests that his own answer would be “no”. After all, what's the point of spending gazillions on making a film if you can't legally show the end result?

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  8. Hi there,

    1. Yeah, don't know about the DVD but I was talking about the Blu Ray zoning. And, yes, there's no warning on the screen. At least not when it plays... or doesn't... on my multi-region player.

    2. I wouldn't say it's sarcastic and I wouldn't take a dangerous piece of irresponsible legislation like that lightly.

    3. I'm not that interested in why the law censors art... only that it is censored. That's everyone's problem.

    4. Absolutely. I wouldn't go into that kind of field without being sure of having absolute control. An ideal place to be but certainly not one that is easily forthcoming. I'm absolutely sure you do a grand job... but I can still get passionate about it, can't I?

    5. Well then why make it in the first case?

    Look, I take all your points but I'm not sure you see where I am coming from. But that's fine, isn't it? We just disagree on stuff. I think that's just about allowed in this country... I think. ;-)

    Again, thanks for taking the time to read and respond. I'm absolutely sure my readers will see your points as well as mine (and I'm making sure of that by not deleting any of the comments on here).

    Thanks for talking and all the best to you.

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  9. 1. Yeah, don't know about the DVD but I was talking about the Blu Ray zoning. And, yes, there's no warning on the screen. At least not when it plays... or doesn't... on my multi-region player.

    I was talking about the Blu-ray as well. I’ll have a look at my copy, because it’s certainly normally the case that there’s an onscreen warning - but different players can sometimes react in different ways.

    2. I wouldn't say it's sarcastic and I wouldn't take a dangerous piece of irresponsible legislation like that lightly.

    My point is that it’s not actually called the “Dangerous Films Act”, which is why I was initially confused as to what you were referring to. The sarcasm comes from the clear reference to the Dangerous Dogs Act.

    3. I'm not that interested in why the law censors art... only that it is censored. That's everyone's problem.

    But in order to discuss and oppose it intelligently, surely you have to take an interest in the mechanisms? Otherwise you just end up making flailing accusations that are often aimed at the wrong target. (Talking of which, I saw one person blaming the 2008 legislation on “bloody Tories”, oblivious of which party was actually in government when it was passed!)

    4. Absolutely. I wouldn't go into that kind of field without being sure of having absolute control. An ideal place to be but certainly not one that is easily forthcoming. I'm absolutely sure you do a grand job... but I can still get passionate about it, can't I?

    Of course - but when you’re dealing with a situation like this, there’s no point being passionate: that’s not going to change the legal position. And it’s all very well making absolutist statements like “without being sure of having absolute control", but the fact is that you simply never know: I don’t know what I’m going to be assigned to work on in six months’ time, for instance. And while I knew that I was working on the Borowczyk project back in 2013, I didn’t know back then that I’d be dealing with a situation like this - according to the original specs we were simply going to present the milder cut of A Private Collection in standard-definition video. But when we raised more money than we expected via a Kickstarter campaign, 35mm materials for both cuts turned up and we had the budget to scan both versions, we thought “why not?”.

    In all seriousness, say you’re me and you were offered the same unexpected opportunity to add an alternative cut of the film in HD, but you knew upfront that you’d have to remove illegal material. Would you really deny people the chance to watch any of it because of a few problematic seconds? Especially as part of an edition that’s intended to be both scholarly and comprehensive?

    5. Well then why make it in the first case?

    Borowczyk’s been dead nearly a decade, so I can’t ask him - but I suspect the fact that he signed off on two versions back in 1973 suggests that one was intended for commercial distribution and the other was intended purely to shock film festival audiences (hence the name “Oberhausen cut”, after the German short-film festival where it premiered). There was no chance of the Oberhausen cut getting commercial distribution even in France - hardcore pornography wouldn’t be legalised there until 1975, and I doubt that this extended to full-on bestiality. Even if Borowczyk wasn’t aware of this, his producer certainly would have been.

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  10. 1. Well I tried it on a couple of Arrows actually and they all reacted the same... that's what made me think to check what Region I had the machine set to, but yeah, could be the player and the discs reacting... which is a problem.

    2. That's fine then.

    3. I'm just expressing an opinion. Here's another... I believe all art should be free and we should all be living in a society not based on money. Don't see any way of making that work... but I still believe it's something to strive for and promote.

    4. In an ideal world I'd walk away from the project... in a less than ideal world where I have to bring money in, I'd try and exercise my right to have my name removed from the project.

    Also, wasn't The Good Old Naughty Days, with the same kind of material, released uncut over here as an R18? I'm told it was and I seem to remember at the time that was what happened.

    5. I can't ask him either but at least we're still talking about him so that's a good thing. Although I really do have to get on with my day now.

    Again, thanks for the comments and for reading.

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