Friday, January 6, 2017

Now That You've Seen Sidse Babett Knudson in Westworld, go Watch The Duke of Burgundy

An alternate title for this post could easily be Now That You've Seen Sidse Babett Knudson in Westworld, go Watch Borgen, the award winning Danish TV series where she plays Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg.  Think of a Scandinavian West Wing, but there’s only three seasons and it’s in Danish.  The Duke of Burgundy (2014) is a far racier option, a surreal erotic love story written and directed by Peter Strickland of Berberian Sound Studio (2014).
Sidse Babett Knudson portrays Cynthia, a lepidopterist and part-time dominatrix, while Italian actor Chiara D’Anna is Evelyn, her real time student and fantasy maid.  The title actually refers to the Hamearis lucina butterfly rather than some random French nobleman, and the pair spends their days enacting highly ritualized scenarios revolving around hand-washing Cynthia’s extensive lingerie collection and polishing her riding boots. 
Evelyn’s vision of subservience isn’t a version of the overtly sexual and commercialized fantasies of say, American Horror Story’s Moira, the sexy red headed ghost maid in Season One.  Her maid is shy and demure, and much like Evelyn’s moth and butterfly collection, she wants to be pinned, controlled and displayed.
The master and servant power dynamic is explored in a world, curiously, without men.  With an all female cast, Cynthia lectures to an audience of women seated with unexplained vintage mannequins that adds surreal dimension to the film.  The time period is also fluid, there are no modern utilities, she types on a typewriter and lives in an antique-filled country house.  Evelyn rides a vintage bike with a wicker basket.  And then there of course the retro fashions, the stockings and boots.  All the men are gone, as if off to war, and the women are left to their own devices.
Stylish and elegant, with a dreamy soundtrack by Canadian alt-rock band Cats Eye, the movie is erotic without being explicit, a welcome vacation from the onslaught of porn that is only a click away, even now as you read this blog.  Reminiscent of Secretary (2002), Swimming Pool (2003) and the earlier porno-chic movies like Last Tango in Paris (1972), The Duke of Burgundy is like a less malicious Mulholland Drive (2001).  A sophisticated woman of what the French refer to as a certain age falls in love with her student, and creates a fantasy world involving punishment and reward.  The movie is such a sensual experience it even has a perfume credit (Je Suis Giselle), with beautifully composed scenes of subtle, quiet erotica, as if the audience is reading someone’s private diary.





my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).