Blu-ray Review: The Duke of Burgundy

While never officially a genre, Cinemax After Dark felt as real of a cinema movement as Neo Realism, film noir or Mumblecore. The channel’s late night offering during its prime involved European erotic tales with the sweet soft focus. There was a sophistication to their carnality unlike the offerings that flowed through Times Square in the ’70s. Cinema After Dark was the kinda naughty films that you could watch with a date instead of watching to make up for a lack of a date. The Duke of Burgundy is a warm view back at that time.

Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) is an eager apprentice willing to do anything to study lepidopterology under Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen). Under is the key word since Evelyn isn’t merely a student. She’s maid, cook and submissive to the enlightened butterfly collector. Cynthia is a cruel mistress to her apprentice. She would get in trouble with HR at any college for her actions. There are plenty of moments where Cynthia lectures on her investigations into rare butterflies. The relationship isn’t what it appears. Turns out Evelyn is more controlling in the play as she tops from the bottom. This slowly works against Cynthia as she is the one playing a role to please her lover. She does’t want to be as cruel as Evelyn craves. Can the relationship survive?

There’s a slow burn to the action. The expert framing allows the images to exude a warm arty feel. The movie isn’t about stripping down and getting freaky. The ladies keep a bit of mystery to their actions by obscuring the action through lingerie and shadows. This will probably turn off an audience who is used to googling certain acts and getting immediate screen satisfaction. While the film is “tame,” its portrayal of a kinky relationship is more sincere than 50 Shades of Grey. The plot isn’t burdened with legal negotiations and people being coy about what goes on behind a locked door.

The Duke of Burgundy is the love child of Jess Franco and Radley Metzger with a script inspired by Vladimir Nabokov’s love of butterflies. But this isn’t merely a tribute since it goes beyond so many of the films that ran on Cinemax After Dark. There brilliance of performances makes a viewer comfortable watching an uncomfortable relationship. Cat’s Eyes’ soundtrack really sets the perfect mood to make a new film seem properly vintage. This is the Eurotique film that would have been a hit 30 years ago.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the atmospheric wonder of Nic Knowland’s cinematography. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 that just envelopes the listener in the lush sounds. There’s also a 2.0 mix. The movie is subtitled in English and Spanish.

Audio Commentary by director Peter Strickland relates how the production came about and capturing the proper atmosphere. It’s amazing whata a lush movie he delivered on a simple budget.

Interview with Peter Strickland (11:35) mentions his fascination with Jess Franco and Radley Metzger.

Stills Gallery covers production pics.

Deleted Scenes (44:24) are finished scenes cut late in the game. The introduction cards explain what they were supposed to do in the story and why they were snipped.

Trailer (1:58) promises the slow burn between two women in the countryside.

Cat’s Eyes Promo (4:43) is the band performing their moody goodness.

Short Film Conduct Phase (7:55) is an arty piece about wild dogs in Greece from the director.

The Duke of Burgandy revives the pleasures of erotic European filmmaking. A masterpiece for anyone that stayed up late with Cinemax.

Shout! Factory presents The Duke of Burgandy. Directed by: Peter Strickland. Screenplay by: Peter Strickland. Starring:Sidse Babett Knudsen
Chiara D’Anna. Rated: R. Running Time: 104 minutes. Released: September 29, 2015.

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