10 posts categorized "Social Satire"

February 10, 2016


Duke of BurgundyWriter/director Peter Strickland (“Berberian Sound Studio”) explores the power dynamics involved in a lesbian sadomasochistic relationship that exists in a utopian atmosphere of rural isolation. This is an erotic drama for adults. Leave “50 Shades of Grey” to the kiddies. This nuanced sexual tale of erotic BDSM topping from the bottom is tantalizing, titillating, and dirty in a way that only the human imagination can explore with such deviant romantic sophistication on the big screen without going full porn. Mistress/Slave. Yummy.


Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen plays Cynthia, a butterfly expert who resides alone in a lush country mansion somewhere in Europe. Cynthia’s full-time maid Evelyn (wantonly played by Chiara D’Anna) seems to take payment for her frequently spotty work, in staged punishments that her mistress Cynthia doles out with stern deportment and appropriately black fetish attire. Formal costume precision is required. So too is a proper attitude of distant attraction.


Evelyn may be marginal in performing her house chores, but she makes up for it in the bathroom, at the service of her full-bladdered mistress. A purposely-unwashed pair of Cynthia’s soiled panties gives cause for a human-toilet golden shower session behind closed doors that leaves Evelyn hungry for more, more, more, more toilet action in the future.


Strickland’s sensual visual touches of stylistic homage to softcore masters such as Jess Franco give the film a sustained sense of lush erotic and dramatic tension, but he allows the racy narrative to go flat. Evelyn’s outré desire for humiliation drives a lesbian relationship centered on fulfilling the couple's fetishistic desires.

Screen Shot 2020-06-03 at 2.28.36 AM

Evelyn's submissive coquettish character gains more pleasure than her older dom Cynthia does from their scripted BDSM sessions together. Equality is not all it's cracked up to be.

Duke of Burgundy

The film’s hook rests with the couple’s bottom-topping paradigm, which proves to be the key to the women's complex sensual connection. Evelyn leaves specific handwritten instructions for Cynthia to fulfill. The submissive is calling the shots. Perhaps this is the secret to the recipe. This self-scripted method for Evelyn to achieve her desired fetishistic scenarios has intrinsic limits that Cynthia isn't able to fulfill, at least not yet.


Although it’s clear that Evelyn is working up to serving as a full-duty (#1 & #2 — shocking, I know) human-toilet to her more mature mistress, the filmmaker inexplicably reneges on the dirty motivation. What could have given the film a truly shocking aspect evaporates when romance deposes the fetishistic elements of the women’s unique bond. Rather than the specially designed toilet chair she requests, Evelyn has to settle for a trunk where she is imprisoned overnight at the end of her mistress's bed.  


“The Duke of Burgundy,” with its perfectly disguised title, could serve as a compass-marker for other (more daring) filmmakers to follow in the footsteps of. Mainstream cinema and pornography continue to overlap. Where are the daring, transgressive filmmakers of the 21st century? No modern-day John Waters? What is wrong with the world?


Neither entirely frustrating nor satisfying, here is an enjoyable erotic film populated with only female characters. As such, "The Duke of Burgundy" affords the audience a much-needed break from Cinema's predominance of male influence, albeit from the director himself. It would be interesting to see how a more daring [female] filmmaker would follow the story’s fetishized elements toward their logical trajectories. Perhaps then Evelyn could achieve the transformation into a human-toilet that she desires. What then?


Not Rated. 104 mins. (B-) Three Stars


COLE SMITHEYHelp keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and get cool rewards! Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

January 12, 2015


A_Serbian_FilmCowriter-director Srđan Spasojević plays hardball on the field of transgressive cinema in one of the most banned films in modern history. Since its release “A Serbian Film” has been outlawed in eight countries, including Spain, Norway, and Brazil. Only heavily censored versions of the film have been shown in England.

You couldn’t ask for a more succinct and evocative title for Spasojević’s brutal film-within-a-film indictment of wealthy exploiters of post-Kosovo-War Serbia. The filmmakers work within the paradigm of calculated filmic satires such as Pasolini’s “Salo” to connect jarring social metaphors concerning powerless family structures pillaged by government and industrial bodies. The attacks are literal, psychological, and physical.


The increasingly disturbing narrative is about Miloš, a semi-retired porn star and family man. Serbian everyman Miloš (‪Srđan Todorović‬) lives with his wife and their six-year-old son in a well-appointed house afforded by his years as Serbia’s most reliably stiff porn star. Miloš’s ever-randy physical condition causes him to take regular gulps of whisky to tamp down his ever-simmering loins. Miloš’s policeman brother Marko has the hots for Miloš’s wife Marija ‪(Jelena Gavrilović‬) to the point that he can barely stand to be alone with her without sneaking off to masturbate. No one is loyal.

Who is A Serbian Film dating? A Serbian Film partner, spouse

A princely offer from a heavily financed pornographer with the traditional Serbian name Vukmir (meaning wolf of peace) ensures Miloš financial security if he will make one last porn movie baked in the extremes that modern porn audiences expect. The offer comes with the caveat that Miloš isn’t allowed to see the script.

Clatto Verata » 'A Serbian Film' Will Rape North American Eye Sockets On  May 13! - The Blog of the Dead

It’s obvious that the black-suited Vukmir (Sergej Trifunovic) and his skeleton film crew are more mobsters than filmmakers even if Vukmir passionately expresses his desire to reinvent pornography in the guise of a “uniquely Serbian” work of art. Miloš senses something is wrong on the first day of filming at a disused orphanage where he’s called upon to receive a blowjob while watching a dual-screen movie of a young girl named Jeca eating an ice cream. Jeca’s abusive mother became a whore after her husband’s wartime death so, in the context of the film, it’s only fitting to Vukmir that she should give Miloš a blowjob while Jeca is made to watch.

The Horror Club: DVD Review: A Serbian Film (2010)

A Grand Guignol episode refers to what Vukmir excitedly refers to as “newborn porn.” The repulsive scene is as repellent as anything imaginable, and therein lays its transgressive effectiveness as a subatomic particle of micro-macro import; the depth of war’s violent depravity is unmasked. The sequence points to the most vile aspects of human nature that are publicly and privately acted out in all sorts of perverse acts committed daily by soldiers, priests, police officers, and by members of polite society. The mother is complicit in the horrific murder of her child by a steroid-stoked mercenary because this is what they both desire.

The Horror Club: DVD Review: A Serbian Film (2010)

The escalating incidents of pedophilia, incest, and necrophilia that follow reflect a country traumatized by otherwise unspeakable acts of violence committed under the auspices of war. We witness the disgusting underbelly of a broken civilization where human values no longer exist. There are no degrees of separation from a communal psychosis that affects every citizen. By putting the narrative in a psycho-sexual-cinematic context Spasojević invites the viewer to compare his made-up pornography of death to the similar underlying nature of capitalism’s commercial cinema of the West and its attendant sponsors. In order to see the message of Srđan Spasojević daring work of filmic art you need only consider the capitalist aspect that makes it possible.


Rated NC-17. 104 mins.

4 Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

November 04, 2014


Pandora's BoxEastern European-born Georg Wilhelm Pabst was a socially driven filmmaker of the silent era dedicated to exploring and exposing social dilemmas facing women in German society. For “Pandora’s Box,” Pabst created a proto-feminist icon for the ages in the guise of a gifted young actress named Louise Brooks, whose bold acting style prefigured modern cinema’s naturalistic acting techniques by decades. Having studied classical dance, Brooks uses her dynamic physicality to define Lulu, a promiscuous bisexual dancer and prostitute whose inviting smile charms men and women alike.

Louise Brooks in "Pandora's Box", 1929, Screencaptures. | Flickr

All exotic image and obtainable commodity, Lulu is an adventurous free spirit; in a phrase, trouble happening. Long before Betty Page struck her fetish pose there was a 22-year-old Louise Brooks wearing a black liquid-looking dress that is pure BDSM. Liza Minnelli’s Sally Bowles character in “Cabaret” is based on Brooks’s Lulu. Needless to say, “Pandora’s Box” was a controversial movie at the time of its release. The movie can be construed as the first international LGBT film ever.

Pandoras-Box-1929That Brooks brought her own history of sexual abuse to Lulu’s lap-sitting courtesan allows for a raw yet focused sense of carnal awareness that is delightfully transparent. Lulu is a sensuous creature whose omnivorous appetite for affection leaves a trail of ruined men in its wake. Brooks’s charismatic on-screen persona is put in perspective against her inviting lips via the tiny bob hairstyle of black hair that she wears during much of the movie.

Louise Brooks en 'Die Büchse der Pandora' ('Pandora's Box'; G.W. Pabst,  1929). in 2021 | Louise brooks, Pandora, Vintage hollywood

Pabst co-wrote the screenplay for “Pandora’s Box” by combining two plays by Frank Wedekind, a German playwright reflecting Germany’s hypocritical mores regarding freedom of sexual expression, especially for women. The “Box” of the film’s myth-related title fulfills a crass ironic pun related to its uninhibited heroine, but it can also be interpreted to represent the metaphorical box in which the male-dominated Weimar Republic sought to contain its definition of womanhood. In no way is the film intended to represent any literal translation of the Pandora myth. The association is purely an allusion.

Louise BrooksPabst seamlessly shifts through generational and economic shifts in Germany’s Weimar Republic in relation to Lulu’s hairstyle. Although Lulu’s hair always remains short, Lulu matures over the film’s novelistic seven-act structure via changes in her hairstyle. The film’s episodic form allows for repetitive character traits to take hold and for varying social conditions to lend an epic quality to Lulu’s not-so-romantic story.

Classic Hollywood: Louise Brooks' rise and fall - Los Angeles Times

Its themes express Pabst’s involvement in Germany’s post-expressionist New Objectivity that rejected “romantic idealism.” There is an underlying irony in the fact that it was this exact brand of capitalist aspirationalism that created the space for Hitler’s reign of German expansionism and genocide.

Pandora's Box | MULTIGLOM

Pabst shows the power of the female image to disguise the model even to herself. Lulu’s fate takes on a tragic, albeit renowned quality, when she meets up with none other than Jack the Ripper. Lulu strays so far beyond social norms that even the serial killer who takes her life seems drab and dull by comparison.


Not Rated. 109 mins. 

5 Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos



Throwback Thursday

Podcast Series