Peter Strickland has made his wondrous erotic study The Duke of Burgundy into a love letter to the supersoftcore Seventies fever dreams of European directors like Jess Franco and Tinto Brass, with a splash or two of Buñuel daubed behind the ears. It's a film of ecstasies, all taking place on the grounds of a cozy-luxe estate that the movie's press notes situate "somewhere, sometime in Europe." It is there we meet the cruel orthopterist Cynthia (Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen), a fiftyish temptress with a penchant for polished reptile stilettos and pencil skirts that turn her derriere into an approximation of a Grecian urn. Cynthia tyrannizes her meek maidservant Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna), a junior lepidopterist with full, quivering lips whose own predilection involves nanny capes and schoolgirl blouses.
Nothing, of course, is as it seems -- because what ever is? Cynthia and Evelyn are engaged in a sultry game of cat-and-mouse, though it gradually becomes clear who has the stronger jaws. The Duke of Burgundy might have stopped at being a lush work of parody, and a pleasingly effective one at that -- Strickland and cinematographer Nicholas D. Knowland dip freely into a big bag of visual tricks, coming up with an assortment of daydreamy soft-focus effects and gently disorienting double-vision images. But Strickland builds the film, artfully, into a complex and ultimately moving essay on the privileges of victimhood and the nuances of what it means to suffer for love.
It's not every day that one experiences a film that explores both the perils of domesticity and sadomasochism with a genuinely romantic narrative. Yet, that's exactly what Peter Strickland does with his latest film, The Duke of Burgundy. The film depicts a sadomasochistic partnership between two women: lepidopterist, Cynthia (Sidse...
Even if you've never seen or heard of a movie called She Killed in Ecstasy, isn't it lovely to know that such a thing exists in the world? That 1971 eroto-thriller was a creation of prolific Spanish-born writer-director Jess Franco, who had a lasting career making florid B movies with...
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