Fetish aficionados will find much to admire in Barbet Schroeder’s groundbreaking depiction of a BDSM dungeon ruled by Bulle Ogier’s emphatically charismatic dominatrix Ariane in this satisfying romantic drama. Released in 1976, Schroeder’s exploration of a behind-the-scenes life of a professional dominatrix features one of Gerard Depardieu’s debut film performances. Bulle Ogier is stunning, and Depardieu is fully formed. This movie is hot, hot, hot.
Barbet Schroeder’s use of real lifestyle subs adds a dramatic scene of kinky CBT with a [highly skilled] stand-in dominatrix, lends the story an air of undeniable authenticity. The shocking sequence caused the film to be banned in some countries upon its release.
Nestor Almendros unfettered cinematography drinks in the unity of opposites that exist between the casual brutality of the real world as contrasted with the hyper-sensualized acts of humiliation and physical abuse that Ogier’s psychologically confident dom inflicts on her slaves.
Crucial to Schroder’s non-judgmental treatment of sadomasochism is Roberto Plate’s fascinating production design that separates Ariane’s duplex apartment via a sliding coffee table that opens to reveal a retractable staircase descending into her well-equipped dungeon. The boundaries of Ariane’s lifestyle are clearly delineated. With the aid of her ‘secretary,’ Ariane dresses in a tight corset, costume, and make-up to transform into a cruel mistress capable of executing the most painful of punishments on her willing clients.
At its heart, Maîtresse is a love story about two free-spirited lovers whose relationship kicks off at the deep end of the psycho-sexual spectrum, and must backtrack from there into a mutual understanding of respect while maintaining their thirst for adventure.
Rated X. 108 mins. (A-)
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