With a 1970s style so florid that you can almost smell it, we're not surprised that there's a credit for perfume in this film's opening titles. This is another astonishingly sensual movie from British filmmaker Peter Strickland (see Katalin Varga and Berberian Sound Studio), mingling vivid sound and imagery with a story that can't help but get under the skin, even though it's utterly bonkers. Yes, the movie is simply that vivid and raw.
It's set in a parallel retro reality in which men don't seem to exist. Cynthia (Borgen's Sidse Babett Knudsen) is an expert on moths and butterflies who teaches at the local university and at home treats her maid Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna) with shockingly rudeness. Except that they're actually a couple in a roleplaying S&M relationship. And Evelyn is clearly the one in charge, asking to be punished in a variety of eyebrow-raising ways. But Cynthia is beginning to feel bad about hurting the woman she loves, so she changes the game. And this forces both women to truly explore what they want and need from each other.
For a movie styled after those trashy 1970s European lesbian romps, this film is remarkably easy to identify with. The sadomasochistic sex is both more transgressive and sexier than anything in Fifty Shades of Grey, and the emotions are also much deeper and more resonant. Everyone can identify with facing up to the expectations within a relationship, and the delicate balance as we try to maintain our own identity while bending to the needs of another person. Strickland has found a startlingly artistic way to express this idea that shocks us with its format while engaging us in a startlingly powerful way we don't quite see coming. And he infuses the film with a terrific undercurrent of hilariously dark humour.
Continue reading: The Duke of Burgundy Review
In a huge, lonely old house, a woman who studies butterflies lives out her life. She enlists the help of a young woman, who works for her as a maid, without knowing what lays in store for her. During the day, she works around the house as the woman conducts her studies. But if she does something wrong, or ever arrives late, the girl is punished. The punishment comes in a sexual form, and soon the girl begins to fall in love with the woman. But as the lines of pleasure and punishment become blurred, so too do the lines between love and servitude.
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Toby Jones finally gets the leading role he deserves as the tweedy sound designer Gilderoy, who travels to Italy in the 1970s to mix the audio track for a trashy blood-soaked giallo horror movie called The Equestrian Vortex. It's about nuns who are viciously interrogated for being witches, so Gilderoy's job entails directing actresses to scream their lungs out into microphones as assistants smash melons and cabbage heads to create the grisly sound effects.
Then as the workings of Italian society drive him around the bend, Gilderoy begins to lose his grip on reality, as if the horror movie is leaking into his private life.
Continue reading: Berberian Sound Studio Review