Peter Strickland’s “The Duke of Burgundy”

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About 10 minutes into this thing I was hoping that with a premise already established the director would quit the bad and unconscious musical montage he was doing since the opening credits and start giving us a film, but no, it does not get better. What Jesus Franco would resolve in one shot, Peter Strickland breaks into ten, and manages to take any meaning away. There are no scenes, there are exhibitions of decór, numerous gratuitous details, in tracking shots (because why not?), and actors being framed as inanimately as any object (see the brilliant analogy?), and look, there’s Monica Swinn playing Lorna.

This is so fetishistic in its homage to an unprestigious type of cinema that makes Django Unchained-level Tarantino look better than a clueless fanboy, and it is worse that nothing distinguishes The Duke of Burgundy from the kind of student film I have to endure frequently, from the same apparent intention of filling every senseless image with artistry and professionalism, which means just using every tool you have at your disposal, regardless of purpose. So, if rack focus was a Franco trademark, a resource to overcome his lack of control in editing, putting all the necessary stuff into a minimum amount of shots and moving between these elements only through pans and zooms (because there was no dolly around to shoot insignificant bullshit), Strickland saw it and must have thought “well, that is a cool technique, but it’s a little rough, artless, let’s do it with some cool lighting, heavy color grading, in more decorated spaces and slow everything down, it must achieve a better effect”, and there you have it, what was once a perverted representation becomes cinematically cute.

Franco could not be clearer: “El cine, o es de género, o es una mierda.” And The Duke of Burgundy won’t be put alongside 70s pornography in video stores, that’s for sure.

Christofer Pallú

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