19 December 2021

Walerian Borowczyk's Le Théâtre de monsieur et madame Kabal | Mr and Mrs Kabal's Theatre (1967)

Initially Borowczyk's first feature – an animated creation with usually strange metallic noises (rather than music) – this seems almost completely bewildering. And although it remains bewildering to some extent, in retrospect it takes on more significance. This is certainly an absurd world in which the principal figure – the fearsome Madame Kabal – is rubbed out a number of times by the illustrator, a representation of whom appears in order to introduce himself to the woman. But it would be difficult to speak of what we are seeing as being in any way a regular narrative: it's more of a long series of often shape-changing figures with no apparent reason for their metamorphosis: virtually nothing is constant, and possibly the large number of butterflies in the film – which of course undergo four changes in their life – is an indication of this change of life.

But there are also animals, which are unrecognisable as any in existence, with the possible exception of maggots. And there is much mechanical behaviour, even the suggestion of the making of bombs (this being the time of the Cold War). And then there's Monsieur Kabal.

M. Kabal is a minor figure in this in comparison with his wife: he makes fewer appearances in the film, and is much smaller in size, quite probably dominated by his wife. He also seems to be spending quite an extent of time looking through his binoculars to the world outside the drawn one, where short film clips show us the 'real' moving world in colour, frequently with scantily clad young women.

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