Walerian Borowczyk is more than just a lot of points on a Scrabble board. He’s a touchstone for fans of 1970s softcore porn, a maverick director who managed to make the genre both literate and totally perverted at the same time. Like the film that made his name, 1975′s Immoral Tales (Contes Immorale), featuring Paloma Picasso, Charlotte Alexandra, and a cucumber, this effort from 1979, Immoral Women (L’Heroines du mal) is a compendium of three short films which share a common theme of women who use sex as a means to achieve criminal and violent ends. Borowczyk always seems to do better in the short format – in fact, he pretty much invented it, in terms of softcore anyway.
The first episode, “Margherita,” stars Marina Pierro as a baker’s daughter who moonlights as a painter’s model (and lover) in Rome during the Renaissance. Her lover contrives to get a commission from the Vatican to paint a ceiling by undercutting Michelangelo’s price by half. Margherita overhears this deal being struck, and goes into business for herself by seducing the Vatican’s emissary, and then double-crossing both of them. Pierro is absolutely gorgeous, spending most of her time posing in the nude, or wearing a see-through veil. There’s actually a surprising amount of male nudity, for a change. Fans of period costume drama, and period un-costumed drama, might enjoy this segment the most.
It all starts to go a little haywire in the second segment, entitled “Marceline.” It involves a young girl (Gaëlle Legrand) coming of age on a French country estate in the middle of nowhere, stuck with her miserable family. Turns out, like most girls her age, she’s fallen in love. But in this case, she’s fallen in love with…well, in Walerian Borowczyk-world, it’s a doozy…a rabbit.
Borowczyk had previously given us La B?te, a story about a woman’s love affair with a gorilla-like beast, complete with the beast’s giant horse-like genitalia spurting out copious amounts of semen all over the screen. So it’s hard to know whether a female/rabbit love scene is a step up or a step down from there. But there she is, actress Legrand, lying naked in a field, legs open, with a tuft of white fur bobbing up and down where you expect the short and curlies. Lepus cuniculus? More like lepus cunnilingus! It’s certainly something you don’t see every day, and only in a movie from the 1970s could you entertain such a thought. Back then, the kind of rabbits women liked apparently didn’t have attachments for clitoral stimulation, and they didn’t need batteries.
Her family hates that she’s so weird. Her father plays a cruel trick on her that involves a plot device to be found later in Fatal Attraction. The family is so awful, so cruel, that you know Marceline is going to get her bloody revenge, and when she does it seems fair and just.
Borowczyk is at the bestiality theme again in the third episode, “Marie,” which is a bit of a puzzler anyway. In this one, a woman (Pascale Christophe) is abducted by a kidnapper who demands a ransom from her rich husband. What the kidnapper doesn’t count on is the affection between her and her dog, who runs away and attempts to find his beloved mistress on his own. What follows is a delightful travelogue of Paris, as Detective Dog searches for clues all the way from the Arc de Triomphe to the Cathedral of Notre Dame. He eventually finds her and exacts his revenge on the kidnapper, but not before the kidnapper has raped Marie. How exactly a woman undergoes a kidnapping and a rape and is still considered “immoral,” that’s the puzzling part. The implication is that the immoral part is her relationship with her dog. Here we go again.
Suddenly I’m thinking of some of the other movies of the era like this, and La B?te, and Nea with its scene involving a cat, the little known Futz! dealing with erotic attachment to a pig, Max Mon Amour a chimpanzee, and of course who can forget the fine work of Pedro the horse in Emanuelle in America? Thankfully – hopefully – this phase of filmmaking passed and the sexually frustrated women of the movies became free in the late 1980s to transfer their affections to, well, other women, I guess. It still may not be entirely realistic but at least now male fantasies of displaced female sexuality are a lot more palatable.
If you can get over the bestial themes, there’s actually a hot movie here featuring unbelievably hot actresses. Call me old fashioned, but I’ll take a Playboy bunny over a real one any day.