Peter Strickland's last film, Berberian Sound Studio, TrustMovies was at least more prepared for this auteur's newest ramble into the kind of bizarre visual world that can only be accessed via film. In its opening moments, THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY (the title refers to Hamearis lucina, a butterfly also known by this titular name) initially seems like a typically lovely European film: gorge-ous photography of a small country village, with babbling stream, plentiful greenery and charming architecture.
Sidse Babett Knudsen, at left, above, who played the lead in one of the best television series ever made (Borgen, from Denmark) -- is worth seeing here in quite a different role.
Chiara D'Anna, above, left, is younger, less tutored and more subservient. Or so it would seem. The Duke of Burgundy is also about role playing and shifting identities. Like a dream, the movie floats along, refusing to be pinned down. It is also, like a dream, quite repetitive, except that dreams, or so they tell us, take place very quickly. This one goes on for 104 minutes, which is good deal longer than its content -- however bizarre, sensual and transgressive it initially seems -- can handle.
Eugenia Caruso, above) who specializes in what appears to be the procuring of some very odd sexual equipment for the bathroom. Along the way, you'll take stock of this relationship and realize that it is probably quite difficult to keep an S&M bond fresh and fun when one partner has an urgent need for masochism while the other isn't truly a sadist.
Radley Metzger, now working in tandem with Peter Greenaway -- not a particularly happy blend. Someone has called this film a melodrama, but it is hardly that. Or at least not a good melodrama -- which needs pace and plot and a little fire. After an initial viewing, The Duke of Burgundy seems all naughty titillation trying to approach sophisticated decadence.
Sundance Selects/IFC Films -- opens this Friday, January 23, in New York City (at the IFC Center) and Los Angeles (at Landmark's NuArt), and simultaneously on VOD in most major markets.