Claudia Winkleman and Danny Leigh are joined by critic Peter Bradshaw on Film 2015 to review Peter Strickland’s sexual drama The Duke of Burgundy.


CW – I thought that this film was strangely brilliant.

PB – I think it’s very strange and very beautiful and a thing of total joy. and I think, unlike the other BDSM film, which you may have heard of, this is a labour of love, that was a labour of money, basically.  Whereas 50 shades was driven by this kind of dead eyed commercial franchise need.  This really was kind of a piece of artistry created by Peter Strickland like a lovely iridescent butterfly of madness.  It was, absolutely adorable.  I just loved it, it was very strange and very sexy and very unwholesome very mad and visually absolutely inspired.

CW – Incredibly sexy yet you don’t really see any sex.

PB – No there’s no sex as such, well, some sex..

DL – (( )) but it’s more about I mean the interesting thing is it’s, it’s mischievous and moving and obviously there are mile of exotic scanties and some very exotic contraptions but actually it’s a film about a relationship and about what goes on in a relationship and it’s about the power and the was that shifts and about the performance and about the way we all perform in relationships and the eternal threat of the younger blonde and i suppose what happens in a relationship when one person starts to get older and the false eyelashes can’t keep pace with the varicose veins and it’s also very very funny.  but it’s about, it’s as much about someone in a thirty-five year marriage in Hemel Hempstead as it is as an S&M tryst in Central Europe.. dreamy Central Europe, in a Hungarian Castle..

PB – the middle of the forest.

CW – Also, in a world where we’re incredibly lucky and we see lots of films, it’s memorable, really that one hangs on to and I know that there are certain moments in this film that we’ll never forget.

PB – I know it’s strange especially the weird LSD moment in the forest where it leaves the ordinary world of 3D boring reality and becomes a kind of mental head trip to somewhere else to another dimension.  Again, that could have been so hackneyed and self conscious but this was a kind of brilliant purely cinematic leap in the dark and it was so gorgeous.  It was brilliant.

DL – It does remind me as well of, it’s a obvious comparison on one level but it reminded me of the famous sex scene in Don’t Look Now which is obviously you know incredibly you know carnal and acrobatic but also you have this very banal stuff going on, so it’s inter-cut, the love making, Julie Christie Donald Sutherland inter-cut with them getting dressed afterwards and then you see Donald Sutherland doing his flies up and sitting on the bed in his socks having a crafty Scotch and Duke of Burgundy is so good at kind of mixing this eroticism with a real sense of the humdrum you know and that’s where so many relationships end up, you know it’s where they hit the rocks.

PB – Then there’s, the other interesting thing is a pastiche of 70’s art-house porn, in a way and there are references to Jesús Franco and (( )) and.. these people and yet it’s not a tongue in cheek post modern kind of kind of mock up in the way that Robert Rodriguez..

CW – yeah, “look I’ve seen it all!”

PB – yeah, sort of Robert Rodriguez might do it with.. and deliberately scratch up the print to make it look like it’s supposed to be 1973 or something like this, Peter Strickland really does want to make it new, he wants to make it fresh, he wants to do it for real, it’s not just a great big ironic joke, he really does want to do it and there’s a kind of weird intense passion in his work.

CW – Absolutely, and you feel, I mean parts of it are very moving and heartbreaking.

DL – and yet there is also this genuine perversity to it like the best film makers, I mean Hitchcock was perverted and David Lynch is perverted and I think Peter Strickland will take it as a compliment when I say he’s perverted too.

PB – yes and I, who knew he was going to be like that because he started as this very straight sort very euro social realist in a way and then he took this fascinating left turn in this kind of Alice through the looking glass turn into this weird world that he’s kind of conjured up for us, wonderful stuff.

DL – But the most perverse moment of all is this pan across the flawlessly made up faces of the all female, I mean there are no men in this film at all, (( )) ((all entomologist)) sitting there wrapped as they listen to the mating, to the enhanced recording of the mating sounds of mole crickets. and that is the most perverse moment of the film and it’s brilliant.

CW – It is.  You have to go and see it.


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