Monday, 20 October 2014

LFF REVIEW - THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY (PETER STRICKLAND)


Love is a torment in Peter Strickland's The Duke of Burgundy, a third consecutive feature from the director to appear wildly ambitious and yet utterly effortless. His burgeoning, meticulous, vivid mise-en-scene presents content as context, a bountiful hive of concealed information - he delves as far into his characters' cerebrums as their crotches, and as the amplified atmospheric noise of insects, obsessively small, obsessively detailed, seeps into reality. But what is reality? Strickland toys with our expectations, turning askew situations around, and around again, and again, our senses luxuriating in the immense, idiosyncratic beauty of his film as our heads gasp for some clarity, some definite sense of place. We will not be afforded such distinctions; nor will his characters. Their carnal yet chaste relationship, obsessed with whatever extremities they feel compelled to pursue, takes the form of a Moebius strip, like a spiral of repetition, encompassing birth, death, rebirth, life and its byproducts to be consumed, a fetid pool of textures left swirling around them as does one's placenta, or perhaps one's faeces, if not taken proper care of. Proper care is perverted in The Duke of Burgundy, though, obsessively distorted to fit one's needs; what of the relationship's needs? Obsession is obsessed with itself, descending down that spiral to the most minute details. What pleasure Strickland permits us to derive from this film, of endless analytical value, is in his playfulness, that toying that he extends to so much of his work. It's self-reflexive style, progressive pastiche, and it's the most persuasive argument conceivable for non-narrative cinema: The Duke of Burgundy is of such enormous worth as said exercise, as a mosaic of exquisite artistry, be it in Andrea Flesch's supple fabrics and sensuous seams, Cat's Eyes' aptly non-classifiable score or just in Strickland's singular artistic intentions. It's an experience meant for those willing to experience it, and its premier message lies therein.