Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D'Anna, Eugenia Caruso, Zita Kraszko, Monica Swinn, Eszter Tompa, Fatma Mohamed
Written by: Peter Strickland
Directed by: Peter Strickland
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 104
Date: 01/23/2015

The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

She Maid Me

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer/director Peter Strickland follows up his outstanding Berberian Sound Studio with The Duke of Burgundy; I didn't like it quite as much, but I still admired it a great deal. It concerns two women in a dom-sub relationship: the soft-spoken, tentative Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna) works as a maid for the upright, middle-aged Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who studies moths and butterflies. Nothing Evelyn does seems to be good enough; there's always a spare pair of panties that didn't get hand-washed with the rest of the laundry, resulting in a punishment. After observing these two for a while, it becomes apparent that they have little routines. The punishments are pre-planned. Then, it becomes apparent that Evelyn is actually the one in charge; she's not shy about manipulating Cynthia into fulfilling her submissive desires. Strickland unfolds all this in quiet, carefully polished scenes. In one, the ladies go about trying to order a bed for Evelyn's birthday; it will allow Cynthia to sleep on top while Evelyn sleeps in a compartment underneath. Unfortunately it will not be ready in time; when the sales lady mentions a human toilet, Evelyn perks up again. Like its predecessor, The Duke of Burgundy is meant to evoke a specific genre from a specific time, and it does that well. As an erotic film, I think it's a bit too clever to really titillate, but it's certainly far preferable to Fifty Shades of Grey.

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