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"The Duke of Burgundy": Bugs, Butterflies, Whips, and Chains 

Wednesday, Jan 21 2015

It goes against the straight world's conventional wisdom about kinkiness, but when BDSM is done properly, the submissive actually has all the power, no matter how intense it may get. Peter Strickland's The Duke of Burgundy explores this and many other aspects of a master-slave relationship between Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna) and the slightly older Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen), two entomologists who engage in carefully scripted sadomasochistic rituals when they're not studying or lecturing about butterflies and larvae. There are some early indications that Strickland is straight-up messing with the audience, including a "Perfume" credit in the opening titles (a "Detergent" credit wouldn't have been out of place, either), or the presence of obvious mannequins at the lectures. But the highly formalistic Duke of Burgundy is playing a deeper game than that, coming across like a film Peter Greenaway never got around to making, while also homaging 1970s Euro-horror films more than any film since Xan Cassavetes' 2013 Kiss of the Damned. For all its creative photography and editing, the picture's real strength is the casting — Sidse Babett Knudsen can speak volumes with her sad eyes — though Strickland also gets points for making use of Nurse With Wound's Soliloquy for Lilith, one of the greatest works of drone music of the 20th century.


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Sherilyn Connelly


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