‘The Duke of Burgundy’
Imagine (if you can) an elaborate, loving homage to ’70s Eurotrash erotica, like “Emmanuelle” and “The Lickerish Quartet.” Now imagine it without the good stuff, which is to say the sex and skin. And now imagine it not as a portrait of quickie love-making but as the opposite: a quietly devastating study of the difficulties of long-term relationships. The impossibly lush and hypnotic “The Duke of Burgundy” is all this and more — a handsome fever dream that follows two women in love. Chiara D’Anna plays a lepidopterology (the study of butterflies and moths, don’t-cha know) student who comes to study/play housekeeper to Sidse Babett Knudsen’s professor. They have a routine: the former shows up at the latter’s tony estate, is pushed around by her superior then inevitably falls into bed with her. Wash, rinse, slowly slide on your high-end duds, repeat.
Only eventually do we realize this isn’t just another bout of softcore. Our shtuppers are, as it turns out, in a longterm relationship, and this submissive-dominatrix routine is all role-playing. In fact, only D’Anna’s character likes it; Knudsen’s just goes along with playing abuser, much to her discomfort, because that’s what her boo wants. Even ignoring the particulars “Burgundy” is still rapturous, lousy with lulling soft-focus photography, ornate furniture and roughly a gazillion shots of lovingly taxidermied insects. It even sports a screen credit for perfume — a sign that Peter Strickland, of the equally brilliant “Berberian Sound Studio,” is trying to appease all the senses, even those ignored by cinema, at least subliminally. Play it in Smell-O-Vision.