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

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.