9 March 2021

Walerian Borowczyk's Contes immoraux | Immoral Tales (1974)

In Contes immoraux Walerian Borowczyk looks at four aspects of sexuality, moving back in time. It begins with a quotation from La Rochefoucauld's Maximes: 'L'amour, tout agréable qu'il est, plaît encore plus par les manières dont il se montre que par lui-même.' 

The first section is called 'La Marée', is in the present time and is adapted from the screenwriter André Pieyre de Mandiargues's Mascarets: 'Julie, ma cousine, avait seize ans, j'en avais vingt, et cette petite différence d'âge la rendait docile à mes commandements.' After consulting the tides, André (Fabrice Luchini) cycles with Julie (Lise Danvers) to the coast, gets Julie to suck him and comes as the tide comes in: he claims it's to educate her.

The second section is 'Thérèse philosophe', set in July 1890. Following the loose theme of imprisonment in the film, Thérèse (Charlotte Alexandra) is locked in her room by her aunt after she is late from church. The title relates to a eighteenth-century book in the room (containing many plates illustrating various sex acts) about a young woman's sexual education, and Thérèse looks at it and has a wild, very noisy masturbatory fantasy in her room with a courgette. She later escapes and is raped by a tramp. The film announces that La Gazette du Dimanche published a piece stating that the people in the area asked for 'Thérèse H' to be beatified.

The third section was to be 'La véritable historie de la bête du Gévaudan', although Borowczyk changed his mind and decided to make that into a full-length feature. So Erzsebet Bathory is the third section. Báthory Erzsébet was a seventeenth-century Hungarian countess who has inspired many stories and legends. Here she (acted by Paloma Picasso) rounds up a number of sexually appealing young women from a peasant village,  they have a shower in her castle, and then there's a vague kind of orgy followed by her female 'page boy' Istvan (Pascale Christophe) killing them all and Bathory swimming in their blood to retain her youth. The police arrest her.

Finally, we have the notorious Lucrezia Borgia (Florence Bellamy) towards the end of the fifteenth century. She was the daughter of pope Alexander VI (Jacopo Berinizi) and the sister of Cesare (Cesar Berinizi). She has sex with both relatives, Savonarola rants and is carried off.

This is not one of Borowczyk's most acclaimed films, either by critics or the public.

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