Peter Strickland’s “The Duke of Burgundy”

cdn.indiewire-1Whether I say it or not, whenever I throw on a film from the 1970s the thought of “they just don’t make movies like that anymore” passes through my brain, and if I hadn’t known The Duke of Burgundy was a new release I would be saying that exact same thing. As it turns out apparently they do make films like that still, well, they being Peter Strickland anyway. Man oh man do I love this movie, and speaking of love…

Love.

Since the birth of cinema filmmakers the world over have always found interesting ways to show us stories involving this four letter word. There are entire genres dedicated to it, such as the romance and the romantic comedy. Rare is the film that doesn’t have some kind of romantic element to it, even if it’s not the prominent focus. Being that there is something like a gazillion amount of films dealing with love (give or take a thousand), inevitably the well on the subject is going to sooner, much before later, run itself dry. However, every once in a while a filmmaker will come along, lower his barrel of moviemaking magic into such a tired well and hoist up a fully fresh supply of newness. Much to the surprise and delight of the jaded moviegoing public (AKA the been-there-done-that-ers) this director has done just that. Ahh, refreshing newness.

The best part about this movie, okay, there’s not really a “best part” as the movie as a whole is so fanfuckingtastic in so so many ways from start to finish, but rather one of the many reasons as to what makes this so great lies in its simplistic narrative; kinky couple aims to keep their love life fresh while trying to – and sometimes failing – remain considerate of each others wants and needs. Sounds boring, but I promise you it’s anything but. That’s because in keeping the story part of the movie minimal Strickland has plenty of freedom to explore technique and overall design (sound, set & costume) with a purpose, grace, and originality (Oh boy, is it original!) that makes for an esthetically and cerebral hour and forty-five minutes of highly rewarding entertainment. Also did I mention it’s being marketed as a sexploitation movie ripe with sadomasochism? Now I ask you, what’s boring about that? Another also, playing a large part in my enjoyability factor is that I’m a sucker for all things 1970s cinema, which brings me to…

Time Machine.

I’m not quite sure how he has acquired it, nor do I have any proof, yet I’ll be damned if that stops me from believing that somehow Mr. Strickland has gotten his hands on a time machine, and with it has been shuttling back and forth to the 1970s in order to make his movies. Sure, this may not be the most responsible use of a time machine, but hey, who am I to judge having never traveled through space and time myself?

This preposterous (is it really?) accusation of mine comes not without some reasonable suspicions though. SPOILER ALERT (Only in regards to tone and look of the film, not plot): The music was done by a group who call themselves Cat’s Eyes and who sound like something from a Goblin scored Dario Argento film, back when Argento still had his giallo mojo going for him that is. There are no cell phones in the film, nor are there any cars, or even any men for that matter. Yes, men existed in the 1970s, but not in this film, a nice little touch. Moving right along. The opening title sequence, one of the best I’ve seen in some time, is very of the era, as is the clothing, hair styles, and just overall feel of the thing.

Try as I may to articulate and pinpoint the exact element that makes this feel so 70s I just can’t do it. I think it’s a culmination of all the various pieces mentioned above, along with some very impressive digital photography in where the framing, pacing, and lighting could easily be mistaken for something that was shot on actual film. Listen, have I mentioned yet that I love this movie?

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Categories: Reviews

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  1. Podcast Episode 4 – “The Duke of Burgundy” | Filmbalaya.com - February 5, 2015

    […] of Burgundy. After writing a review for the film, in where I praise the living dookie out of it (see review here), I then sat down with my deputized Filmbalayans Ben and Rock to get their take on the spectacle. […]

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