Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Duke of Burgundy

We've been running (with an agency called Enfilme) a mini-filmfest titled, rather unimaginatively, Sound & Vision at two art-house cinemas in Condesa and Roma. It's an interesting 'auteur' selection: Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers, Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, Duane Hopkins’s Better Things, Joanna Hogg’s Exhibition... and tonight the closing film, Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy. 
I've been following Strickland's career with great interest (see Katalin Varga and Berberian Sound Studio posts). Burgundy shows him getting ever more confident: script, direction, look, feel, music. Everything about it points to an early 70s middle European aesthetic. Not just because it appears to be set then & there, but also because it seems to have been made then & there. The title sequence alone, by Julian House at Intro, is a fantastic piece of pastiche, and I found myself comparing bits of the film to Fassbender's Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, Bergman's Persona and - most obviously - Jesus Franco's Vampyros Lesbos. Sounds obscure, challenging? Well yes, but it's also quite funny in parts. I loved, for example, the unexplained appearance of a blond mannequin, sitting in the audience of a lecture, and some of the dialogue is hilarious. It's also quite possibly the only film I've seen with a complete absence of men and children.   
As usual the choice of music, by Cat's Eyes and Nurse With Wound, is both brave and successful. Around halfway through, there's a frenzied, hallucinogenic scene of moths flying around, set to an excerpt of Nurse With Wound's Soliloquy for Lillith, an obscure triple album of experimental ambience from 1988 (and I am almost certainly the only person who has a copy of the original here in Mexico). 
And what's the film about? Well, it's your typical sado-masochistic love story between an older and a younger woman, who share a scientific interest in lepidoptera. Obviously.

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