Monday, May 8, 2017

THE THEATRE OF MR. AND MRS. KABAL (1967) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Olive Films 

Region Code:
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 78 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: French DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono with optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Full Frame (1.33:1) 
Cast: Pierre Collet, Louisette Rousseau 
Director: Walerian Borowczyk

Synopsis: Walerian Borowczyk’s The Theatre of Mr. And Mrs. Kabal (1967) is a glimpse inside the weird and wonderful world of the theatrical Kabals. The henpecked Mr. Kabal, prone to ogling young females through his binoculars, is never quite beyond the reach of the statuesque and domineering Mrs. Kabal who flutters about (quite literally when butterflies appear inside of her stomach) in a connubial reign of terror. Although it may not always be le beau mariage, Mr. and Mrs. Kabal are nonetheless made for each other.

The Theatre of Mr. and Mrs. Kabal (1967) was Polish-born
filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk's feature film debut, and apparently his last animated film, based on characters he dabbled with in the '62 short film The Concert, we have the monstrous Mrs. Kabal and her diminutive mustached husband Mr. Kabal as they set about on a series of weird and surreal adventures. Borowczyk used a blend of crude, hand drawn and cut-out animation with live action clips peppered throughout to make the surreal slice of avant-garde animation, mostly black and white with some splotches of color, even Borowczyk himself shows up in the beginning to introduce his characters and the film, beginning with Mr. Kabal seemingly being assembled like a robot trying on different heads, before settling on one and then addressing the director in her odd staccato chirp of a voice. Right from the get-go you get the notion that this is gonna be a strange trip, at boy is it ever.

The animated film plays like a series of day-in-the-life vignettes of the Kabal's, as the oddball couple set about going to the beach, making large caliber ammunition, preparing dinner and attending the movies, all the while plagued by an endless barrage of irritating butterflies who are ever present, as are a series of small animals, including a two-legged reptilian rat creature and a large bird which drops blue eggs onto the sparse landscape. Peppered throughout the film are live-action shorts of pretty women in various states of undress that Mr. Kabal spies upon with his trusty telescopic binoculars, these women are usually accompanied by a bearded old man, which seems to upset Mr. Kabal quite a bit.

Mrs. Kabal is quite annoyed by the presence of the butterflies, they cause her to fall ill, forcing Mr. Kabal to saw off his wife's head and enter the inner workings of her body to retrieve and dispose of the culprit butterflies, the source of her illness. The interior of her body is a labyrinth, at times recalling the world-warping illustrations of M.C. Escher, including staircases, waterways and oddball architecture.

Like all of the Borowczyk short films from The Walerian Borowczyk Short Films Collection (1959-1984) this animated movie is enhanced by some trippy sound design, adding crisp punctuation to the oftentimes nonsensical drawings performing grotesque and bizarre actions. I thought to myself more than once that maybe I needed to be on drugs to get the full effect of this film, because it is so damn weird, Borowczyk's humor is hard to grapple with at times, but I found it fascinating, I'm just not sure I would ever watch it again, unless it was a "you have to see this" sort of scenario with a group of friends, you know?

Honestly, I found it a hard to stay tuned into it, it's damn near impenetrable at times, loaded with bizarre animations, there's no real narrative and the overpowering hallucinatory weirdness turned out to be a slog. I can only see this appealing to the most curious of cult-cinema weirdos, even I, a lover of all things oddball,  struggled to appreciate how damn weird this thing was. I guess I am more in-tuned with his perverted arthouse films of the 70s and 80s along the lines of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Hyde (1981), Immoral Tales (1974) and The Beast (1975), more so than his early lunatic animations. That said, adventurous cinema fans out with some serious weirdness stamina might find this to be worth a peek. 2.5/5