Movie Review: ‘THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY’ Will Have ‘FIFTY SHADES OF GREY’ Looking Like a Skin-A-Max Special

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Cole Clay // Film Critic


THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY | 104 min. | UR
Director: Peter Strickland
Stars: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Monica Swinn and Chiara D’Anna

Apparently Americans are ready to fully indulge themselves in a BDSM movie made for the mainstream. Instead of seeing FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, opt for a film that doesn’t pander to TWILIGHT and Danielle Steele fans. Director Peter Strickland’s THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY serves up a strange, and at times, funny meditation on the monotony of a long term relationship.

Strickland understands the strange occurrences in the well-mannered power struggle between the submissive Evelyn (Chiara D’ Anna) and her well-to-do lover, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen).

Relationships are exhausting work and Strickland’s leaves touches of beautifully complex interactions between the couple who are going through a rough patch. THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY exists in its own world separate from reality.

Most of the film takes place in the storybook cottage owned by Cynthia. There are zero men in the film, and the sexual practices of the relationships are taken completely seriously. Strickland uses the BDSM to delve into the surface level novelty of the concept, but the film much more simple than that: it’s a relationship drama. One that’s much more relatable that you might think at first glance.

The stars of THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY. Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

The stars of THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY. Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

In one compelling scene, Evelyn is commissioned to hand wash Cynthia’s undergarments. The soap bubbles serve as a metaphor for the brewing sexual tension that underlies throughout. The film is a masterful work of art that allows you to get lost in the images on screen (much like GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE, only not nearly as visceral).

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY is like a lucid dream that is simultaneously clear and complex. It’s an anomaly for taking the provocative topic of BDSM and asking viewers to perversely relate to something so alien.

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY opens today.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.