Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Goto, Isle of Love (1969)

        Walerian Borowczyk's second feature is a satire on totalitarianism, filmed in black and white (except for a few very brief colour inserts) and with an emphasis on weird props, grim dusty sets, and with something of an absurdist sense of humour. I know Terry Gilliam admits to Borowczyk as an influence, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if other absurd humorists of the time (including the rest of the Pythons, as well as Spike Milligan and Vivian Stanshall) were aware of and appreciated Borowczyk's work. Certainly of you're a fan of anything they did you'll find GOTO, ISLE OF LOVE fascinating.

Goto is an island (in fact an archipelago) that has been separated from the mainland by an earthquake that occurred in 1887. Since then the society has been left on its own to develop in a number of strange ways. Currently ruled over by Goto III (Pierre Brasseur from Franju’s LES YEUX SANS VISAGE) and populated seemingly entirely by people whose names begin with the letter 'G', most of the people of Goto spend their time in abject poverty and slavery. The only entertainments are executions, and recitals of music played on instruments made out of old packing crates and anything else to hand. The ageing Goto's sexy wife Glossia (Ligia Branice from BLANCHE and married to Borowczyk at the time) is being pursued by a young handsome officer, and eventually ends up in the hay with him.  Meanwhile, the petty criminal Gozo (Guy Saint-Jean) is busy working his way up the hierarchy, getting himself employed by Goto III as fly killer, dog handler and boot polisher. 

Someone mentioned that the best way to watch GOTO is by thinking of it as a work by Mervyn Peake. Certainly there's a Gormenghast feel to the proceedings, albeit filtered through an Eastern European lens. Borowczyk's directing style is often similar to that in BLANCHE, and the music score (a Handel organ concerto) merely serves to emphasise the otherworldiness of the action. GOTO is a peculiar, slightly surreal and absurdist film & if you enjoyed BLANCHE and the SHORT FILMS you'll find a lot to interest you here as well.

Arrow's fine-looking release of GOTO is the result of what sounds like a Herculean restoration job, the outline of which is presented to us before the film proper starts, and justifiably so. It looks very good indeed, and there's been an excellent tidy up job on the soundtrack as well. Extras include an introduction by Craigie Horsfield, a documentary about Borowczyk's sound sculptures - The Profligate Door, and The Concentration Universe, which features interviews about the film. There's also the usual reversible sleeve and collector's booklet.
         A significant achievement in film restoration, GOTO, ISLE OF LOVE now looks and sounds as good as it must have done on its original release. Anyone with an interest in the director's works should snap up a copy while they can.

Arrow Films released Walerian Borowczyk's GOTO, ISLE OF LOVE on dual format Blu-ray and DVD on 8th Septembet 2014

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