‘Duke’ is a work that will resonate with anyone that has ever been in a heated battle with their partner. Strickland turns a discerning eye towards mountains-out-of-molehills moments, mining both discomfort and comedy from the games people play. When we saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, we called it a “work of immense and intense emotional vigor, sprinkled with fun-loving traits and intellectually stimulating prowess.”
We recently sat down with the director to see what particular movies fed into the conception of ‘Duke,’ from the work of the much lauded Rainer Werner Fassbinder to likes of the lesser celebrated (at least around these parts) Jesus Franco.
1. “Les Biches” & “Belle de Jour”
“‘Les Biches’ was an influence. We modeled Cynthia’s hair on one of the actresses. ‘Belle de jour’ has a scene that in hindsight I realized is the seed for ‘Duke’: it’s when the client playing the butler in the bordello is getting told off by the madame. She gets a line wrong and he asks her to do it again… I realized that’s the whole Duke in the whole scene. That level of artifice and theatricality was incredible.”
2. Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films
“‘Fox And His Friends,’ for the way he tapped gay relationships. He brings his boyfriend over to dinner to meet his parents. And he’s gay, but it’s not about that he’s gay. It’s as if he brought the girlfriend over. There was no question of his sexuality. It’s just ‘who is this person’ and they chat. That was really radical for the ’70s.”
“Then there’s ‘The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant.’ The maid is treated like a dog for most of the film, and it’s only later on that I realized that that’s how she likes to be treated. And when Petra becomes weak at the end, the appeal is lost for the servant and she just walks away. And I thought that was so powerful: this need for another person to be powerful. It’s a really brutal film about relationships.”
“But the most brutal one he ever did was ‘Martha.’ This is proper masochism. Because in the ‘Duke of Burgundy’ there was consent all around and there’s a lot of tenderness. It’s much much deeper.
5. Sexual, Trashy Films
‘Some of Walerian Borowczyk’s stuff.. his non-Polish phase. There’s a wonderful atmosphere to those films. Very languid, melancholic. Maybe some Radley Metzger. There’s a very obvious Metzger touch in ‘The Image,‘ but I’m not crazy about that film. ‘The Lickerish Quartet,’ mostly for the production value and so on. ‘All Ladies Do It‘ by Tinto Brass… you know, it’s more about taking the core of these kinds of films —they almost always have female lovers— and taking that idea somewhere else. Sadomasocism figured into all of them. A lot of these films were all made by (I assume) heterosexual male directors for a heterosexual male audience, which is something that I have to be very careful about.”
“The Duke Of Burgundy” opens in limited release on January 23rd.
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