Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, 2014)

As the milfy goddess at the center of this sumptuous tale of moths, mannequins and cunnilingus slowly began to hike her skirt up as her maid gave her a foot massage, I wondered to myself: Whose pussy is this supposed to benefit? To someone who just happened to stumble upon them on a lark (ooh, look... a clothed lesbian is touching another clothed lesbian's feet), it's obvious that the milfy goddess is the main benefactor. But to someone (okay, me) who has seen The Duke of Burgundy from start to finish (multiple times), I can safely state that both are getting something out of this impromptu foot-based rub-down. I know, the maid is acting like she would rather be out collecting butterflies. But believe me, she is loving every minute of this. Such is the off-kilter dynamic of Evelyn and Cynthia, who partake in, what has to be, one of the healthiest relationships ever captured on film. Call it BDSM, call it... Well, let's just call it BDSM (bondage, dominance/submission and sadomasochism) for now. As I was saying, the relationship depicted in this film, written directed by Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio), caused me to feel strangely at ease.


In most movies that feature characters who engage in some sort of relationship (whether they're simply dating, noncommittal fuck buddies or a married couple), I find their antics to be repulsive. Sleeping in the same bed together, respecting each other (no one, for example, is locked in a trunk overnight), pretending to be interested in what in the other one is blathering on about, these people make me want to puke. This, thankfully, didn't happen once over the course of this film. In fact, I found myself nodding in agreement to most of what I saw transpiring in front of me.


I liked how the relationship in this film was two women, as opposed to a man and a woman. What I mean is, I'm glad it wasn't a man dominating a woman; I can't stand maledom. And while it's true, I do prefer femdom. The relationship depicted in this film can't really be classified as "femdom," as it doesn't properly identify who the dominate party is, and both parties are women. Now, I didn't come up with this term (though, I wish I did), but the best way describe "the thing" between Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna) and Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen, Borgen) is lezdom.


Since the primary relationship is a lezdom one, this eliminates the need for men. Sure, you could show men lingering in the background, but what would be the point of that? No, Peter Strickland's decision to have an all-female cast was the correct one. Of course, I happen to think that all movies, with the exception of gay porn and John Carpenter's The Thing, should have female only casts, but that's just the way I was raised.


If it sounds like I'm implying that there are other lezdom relationships being carried out in this film's estrogen rich universe, that's because I am.


As a carpenter (Fatma Mohamed), one who specializes in making custom-made bondage furniture, is telling Evelyn about the ins and outs of her new bed (one that confines one of the users in a box), she mentions making a similar bed for a woman who lives nearby. When the carpenter said this, I let out a mild chuckle. Then I came to the realization that everyone in this film was either in or striving to be in a lezdom relationship.


You know the expression: Who's wearing the pants in this relationship? Well, in The Duke of Burgundy, it goes more something like this: Who's wearing the seamed tan pantyhose in this relationship. To the layman, it's evident that Cynthia is the one wearing the seamed tan pantyhose in this relationship, as witnessed by the jet black seams currently tearing up the back of her tan pantyhose adorned legs.


However, as it's hinted at later on in the film, it would seem that Evelyn is the one who purchased the seamed tan pantyhose. Which begs the question? Who's dominating who?


Have I mentioned that this film is lush as all get out? I haven't? That's weird. Well, it's lush, all right. In fact, it's so lush... (Don't tell me, you listened to the band Lush after the movie was over.) While the manner in which you interrupted me was a tad on the dickish side, you're absolutely right, I popped on some Lush, Gala-era Lush, to be unnecessarily specific.


Which is actually ironic, because the film's lushness is on full display during the opening credits. What's that? Why is it ironic. Oh, because the lush visuals are accompanied by the dreamy music of Cat's Eyes, who sound like they belong on 4AD. And, as most people know, 4AD was Lush's record label.



After watching Evelyn ride her bike during the lush opening credits, she finally arrives at Cynthia's house. Judging by the way Cynthia starts ordering Evelyn around, it would seem that... Would you look at that, the seams on Cynthia's tan pantyhose are blacker than I initially thought. Amazing. And check this out, her skirt has a mild slit in the back. Wonderful.


Huh? Oh, yeah, it would seem that Evelyn works for Cynthia. But as I implied earlier, nothing in this film, even the seams on Cynthia's tan pantyhose, is as it seems. Get it, seems, seams. Aren't homonyms fun?


Anyway, I didn't expect a pair of unwashed panties to be the catalyst for Cynthia to pee in Evelyn's mouth. While we don't exactly see Cynthia do this (the bathroom door is closed), she is shown drinking a lot of water beforehand (in order for a human to discharge urine, they first must ingest a liquid of some kind). Meaning, I think the panties were unwashed on purpose. Which means everything we have witnessed so far is an elaborate form of lezdom foreplay.


This "elaborate form is lezdom foreplay" isn't just reserved for every other Tuesday. No, this is something they do everyday. The only break they seem to get is when they attend female only Lepidopterology seminars. (Lepi-what?) You know, Lepidoptera, moths and butterflies. Truth be told, I don't even think "Tuesday" exists in this film's universe. Which is a good thing, as I'm not a fan of films that insist of having times, dates, countries, flags, money, cars and men. All they do distract us from what is important. (Which is?) Duh, golden showers, face-sitting, bike riding, boot polishing, nylons, seams, slits, heels, cunnilingus, moths, butterflies and... Monica Swinn.


(Wait. Did you say, Monica Swinn?) Yeah, so. (Monica Swinn. The actress who appeared in countless Jess Franco movies during the mid-1970s?) Yeah, that's her. (Just checking.) What I liked about Monica Swinn's surprise return to the silver screen is that it seems designed purely to delight Jess Franco fans. I mean, who else is going to appreciate this? Don't believe me. Well, her character's name is "Lorna," as in, Lorna The Exorcist. 'Nuff said.


Actually, there is an increment of time mentioned in this film. Eight weeks. The amount of time it will take Fatma Mohamed's "The Carpenter" to finish the confinement bed that Evelyn desperately wants. Unfortunately, Evelyn was hoping to get her custom made confinement bed for her birthday (which is in two weeks). There's talk of getting a human toilet instead, but you can tell that Evelyn has her heart set on getting a confinement bed.


The look on Evelyn's face when "The Carpenter" says, "Would a human toilet be a suitable compromise"? speaks volumes, as it's clear to everyone that she wants to sleep in a box underneath Cynthia.


The whole sequence with "The Carpenter," if you couldn't tell already, is fantastic. My favourite moment is when "The Carpenter" can't remember the name of the woman she made a confinement bed for who lives down the road, yet she remembers that her house had a wisteria porch and a yellow colonnade.


In a weird twist, Cynthia hurts her back while lifting a box into her bedroom for Evelyn to sleep in in the meantime. With Cynthia not being able to carry out her lezdom duties with her usual pep, Evelyn starts to eyeball the boots of another milfy moth and butterfly enthusiast.


I don't know 'bout you, but I'm hoping these two kooky kids can work things out. Granted, polishing another woman's boots might not seem like a big deal, but to them, it's worse than catching your girlfriend scissoring with another woman in a kiddie pool filled with grape jelly behind a non-existent Jiffy Lube. However, once you expel pee-pee into another person's mouth, you and that person share a bond that is greater than the universe itself. In other words, everything is going to be fine.


Call me crazy, but I think The Duke of Burgundy is the best film of 2014. Hold on, let me quickly check something... Okay, I'm back. Other than maybe The Guest, I don't see anything else that comes close to topping The Duke of Burgundy. I missed the Oscars this past year, but I'm gonna go ahead and assume that it must have won a shitload of trophies. The acting, the art direction, the dialogue, the costumes, the music, they all deserve to win awards. I know I could check the results, but I'd rather remain in the dark. No, as far as I'm concerned, The Duke of Burgundy is the best film of 2014.


4 comments:

  1. You know, I wasn't feeling this movie nearly as much as you, but after reading, I may have to give it a second look. I got the whole "who is dominating who" question, which I thought was answered pretty well, but maybe it was more ambiguous than I remembered. And yes, those stockings were very Lush-like -- having seen them live 3 times in the 90s, I saw Miki wearing them with pride each time.

    I actually came over here to tell you that we gave you a shout on our podcast (http://criterionblues.com/2015/10/18/episode-11-january-2016-releases-and-the-classic-film-blogosphere/). It's a long one, and I'm going to guess your mention is somewhere near the 70-minute mark. And I think you'll find it funny. As a "veteran," you will probably find the entire conversation interesting.

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    1. The real winner in the Duke of Burgundy sweepstakes is "The Carpenter," as she must make a killing off selling confinement beds and human toilets to all those lezdom lesbians with disposable incomes.

      You saw Lush three times during the 90s? I only saw 'em once. You win. ;) Mmmm, Miki in nylons.

      I'll be sure to listen.

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    2. Damn, that was a pretty awesome shout-out. Thanks a bunch.

      Oh, and I'm not doing Salò for the Criterion Blogathon, I'm doing Grey Gardens.

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  2. I agree. Such a good film. I wish there were more like this.

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