Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
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In the opulently fetishistic Duke of Burgundy, two beautiful women enact elaborate rituals of domination and submission in a dark mansion deep in a European forest. A weekly meeting of lepidopterists, bristling with repressed flirtations, is their one respite from domestic role play. There are no men in this surreal world: that eponymous Duke is a butterfly. British filmmaker Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio) is a connoisseur of 70s Euro sexploitation. With only the slyest hints of irony, he divines enduring erotic allure in the absurdly high-toned soft-core porn that once played New Zealand cinemas in copies so heavily truncated by censorship that they always ran in pairs. More consummately coutured (by Andrea Flesch) than its tattered prototypes, The Duke of Burgundy draws impressively nuanced performances from Sidse Babett Knudsen, the Danish PM in Borgen, and Chiara D’Anna.
“While it’s shot with an eye for the avant-garde and an obsessive, fetishistic attention to the detail, texture and manner of the 70s films whose aesthetic he has borrowed, it’s far more than a pastiche or mere stylistic exercise. In fact, in the aestheticised, isolating world in which they live, Cynthia and Evelyn’s heartfelt efforts to please and to reach one another become unexpectedly moving.” — Laurence Phelan, The Independent
“Strickland has made something uniquely sexy and strange, built on two tremendous central performances and a bone-deep understanding of cinema’s magic and mechanisms.” — Robbie Collin, The Telegraph