Mar 17, 2013

The Beast

Indubitably one of his most, if not his most, celebrated and simultaneously controversial works, La Bête (1975) aka The Beast directed by mock-mystical-minded Polish pornographer, stop-motion animator, and arthouse auteur Walerian Borowczyk (Goto, Island of Love, Behind Convent Walls) is a brazenly blasphemous erotic film that manages to combine drama-horror-fantasy-comedy in a uniquely unruly and ruthlessly unhinged faux-fairytale featuring heated horse sex, burlesque blueblood bestiality, loony and lurid libelous attacks on the aristocracy, and recessive genetic degeneration of the inadvertently Lovecraftian kind. Upon my initial viewing of The Beast about a decade or so ago, I remember being bored to death (with the exception of a heated horse humping scene) for what seemed to be the first hour, but was soon on the edge of my seat after seeing a black furry beast of the savage semen demon sort brutally buggering a beauteous well-bred babe with a wig in what is quite possibly the most cum drenched montage in all of cinema history, so I thought it was about time to revisit the film, especially after thoroughly enjoying Walerian Borowczyk’s tragic yet titillating erotic romance La marge (1976) aka The Streetwalker starring Joe Dallesandro and Sylvia Kristel rather recently. Often assumed to be an erotic celluloid adaptation of the classic French fairytale Beauty and the Beast, Borowczyk’s The Beast is nothing of the sort, but it does feature a lethally lecherous moment between a woman and beast and the dysgenic generational result of this superlatively sordid sex session in the French forest, thus the film works as a sort of ‘anti-Beauty and the Beast’ that Anglo-American Spenglerian horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft might have enjoyed, were it not for the aesthetically erratic ‘erotic’ scenes that would mostly certainly offend his super sensitive quasi-Victorian sensibilities. A curiously quaint marriage between preposterous patrician perversity, highbrow kitsch and erotic elegance, and pomo fairytale storytelling for adults, The Beast is a rare cinematic work that reminds the viewer that the cinematically risqué, repugnant, and, quite frankly, retarded, can also be ridiculously refined in the manner of a story that only half-barbarian Slavs can pull off. 

 Lucy Broadhurst (Lisbeth Hummel) is quite beauteous and she is about to be filthy rich, so long as she marries physically disabled and less than delightfully dimwitted French aristocrat Mathurin de l'Esperance (Pierre Benedetti), who runs his family’s horsebreeding business. Opening with a horrifically hung horse blowing its super load in a female horse’s seemingly lipsmacking vagina, The Beast immediately establishes sex as the most intrinsic, instinctive, and bestial act of animals, and humanity, being no less preoccupied with everything sex, is just another stupid and instinct-driven beast, albeit of the more sophisticatedly savage sort; or so a certain rapist monster learns when he encounters a cultivated aristocratic woman who not only knows how to pleasure a fiendish phallus with the glory between her legs, but also with her frisky feet. Mutant man Mathurin lives at a dilapidated chateau with his conspiring father Marquis Pierre de l'Esperance (Guy Tréjan), nymphomaniac sister Clarisse (Pascale Rivault), and a young black servant named Ifany. Miscegenation seems to be a pathological mania in the decidedly decadent de l'Esperance family as jaded blueblood bitch Clarisse has jungle fever as a positively posh proto-wigger with braided black broad hair who uses her ‘exotic primitive’ servant Ifany as a more than willing sex slave, but, unfortunately, he is always called during mid coitus to do real work around the house, so she constantly has to finish herself off by mounting her bedpost. When Lucy, who seems like a strung out Warhol Superstar like Viva due to her hyper-hedonism and erotomania, and her aunt Virginia (Elisabeth Kaza) arrive at the de l'Esperance manor, they are royally greated with two big black horny horses humping, but the prospective wife is never going to experience such bestial bliss with mangled Mathurin – a freakish frog of the feverishly feeble-minded persuasion. Instead, Lucy will become transfixed with one of Mathurin’s ancestors, Romilda de l'Esperance (Sirpa Lane) – a luscious lady in white who was buggered by a beast 200 years ago, yet ultimately prevailed in the end. Lucy learns about the ridiculously risqué tale of Romilda after noticing the large collection of zany Zoophilia art scattered around the marvelous, albeit moth-eaten, maniac mansion and questioning elderly wheelchair-bound cripple named Duc Rammendelo de Balo (Marcel Dalio of Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game), who Mathurin takes care of, so, naturally, he wants to destroy the wedding, thus he is more than willing to expose the fantastic and flaky fetishism of the historically flatitious family. Lucy becomes absurdly aroused by the story of Romilda and her ridiculously raunchy rendezvous with a rapist beast, which is depicted in an absurdist harpsichord-driven dream-sequence scene where the beast’s meaty member is the real star. Romilda inadvertently enables the beast to reach climax via her feet as she kicks his giant genitals in an attempt to escape, only to make the cursed creature all the more aroused, thus he is far from finished after one explosive orgasm as a potent personage, so he relentlessly rapes the positively petrified peeress and, to his superlatively salacious surprise, she begins to enjoy it, so much so that she becomes more bestial than the beast himself, and, quite ironically, fucks the ferocious feral fiend to death. Dreaming of Romilda, Lucy masturbates her ‘rosebud’ with a red rose, henceforth bringing ecstasy to her flesh flower, but her enjoyment won’t last long as she will soon learn something rather repugnant about Mathurin and his foul family's monstrous genetic legacy. 

 Like Spanish surrealist auteur Luis Buñuel, peverted polack Walerian Borowczyk surely does not seem to have much veneration for the French upper-classes as especially exemplified in The Beast – a horrifically heretical yet suavely sardonic cinematic work that portrays froggy patricians as cripples, perverts, and mongrel mutants of misceginated cross-species blood. What makes The Beast especially interesting is that it portrays Frenchmen, especially of the poorly aged aristocracy, as those suffering from innate impurity of the insidious sort as they have a long history of colonizing various non-Europeans and creating hybrid races that, in some instances, would be the root of their own demise. For example, many of those that led the so-called Haitian Revolution, including Haitian founder father Alexandre Sabès Pétion and André Rigaud, were mulattos who where the spawn of wealthy French aristocrats who mated with Africans and thus were wealthy and educated and ultimately helping to lead the slave revolt against their fathers and fathers' homeland, thus bringing credibility to the satiric quote in William Klein's filmic farce Mr. Freedom (1969) that, "The French are the white man's burden," and not a problem just for people of the third world. Of course, like the guiding influence of H.P. Lovecraft’s novels – a hatred of race-mixing and an obsession with lost and dead civilizations that fell as a result of intermingling with racial monsters and beasts and thereupon spawning horrendous humanoids of the super subhuman and savage sort – The Beast is mainly rooted in the fear of tainted blood and the genetic degeneration such ungodly racial mixing sows. As the character Cardinal Joseph do Balo states upon learning of Mathurin’s bestial taint, “Bestiality, that is to say, copulating with an animal, is the most odious crime because it debases man, created in the image of God. It is most contrary to the laws of nature. That is why Leviticus…punished by death not only the guilty man or woman but also the beast itself.” Needless to say, the disastrously debauched de l'Esperance developed a perennial curse that day Romilda rolled around the grass with a beast some two centuries before. That being said, whether director Walerian Borowczyk’s intention or not, to me, The Beast, is the great pornographic parable about the perturbing perils of lustful jungle fever, because, after all, when you mate with an ill-equipped untermensch, all your subsequent ancestors will pay the price for a couple moments of savage copulation. 

-Ty E

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