Tag Archive for: Peter Strickland

The Duke of Burgundy; The Beast (Netflix Canada picks)

12 Feb
February 12, 2016

If Berberian Sound Studio mines the history of giallo horror for its meta-cinematic thrills, The Duke of Burgundy, director Strickland’s follow-up, does the same for ’70s art house erotica—”a domestic drama that has fallen out of the hands of a sleazier genre,” he says. Except that here, while the main title, and the conceptually appealing setup of an alternate world populated entirely by women, feel quite “meta,” the story winds its way from the specifics of a role-playing sadomasochistic relationship to the universals of human love—”all done with a poise and high seriousness that still contains a squeak of humour, at an insect-type frequency.”

Strickland’s inspiration, the ’70s sexploitation films—directors like Jess Franco, Tinto Brass, Ken Russell—are not to be found on Netflix, with the strange single exception of The Beast by Valerian Borowczyk. “Finally! I saw a wolf-like beast creature ejaculating repeatedly on a naked Victorian woman. My life has come full circle,” says one user review on Netflix, but I can’t help noticing that the same reviewer gives the film three stars. This “frothing-at-the-mouth artsploitation juggernaut” has its deeply problematic aspects, as you would have to expect, but it is also weirdly compelling in moments, no thanks, or maybe partly thanks, to a completely unconvincing beast costume. The film starts off with some unflinchingly filmed live horse copulation, and builds from that tone-setter. The restored film image is quite excellent, presumably from the same master as 2014’s Blu-ray box, which sold out and is now going on Amazon for several times its initial price. Go figure.


Ten of the very best films of 2015 are already on Netflix Canada

02 Jan
January 2, 2016

Some of the films on year-end best-of lists will take months yet to show up on streaming services, but here are ten from the cream of the 2015 crop that you can watch right now.

Clouds of Sils Maria

Directed by: Olivier Assayas (Carlos, Something in the Air)
Notable performances: Kristen Stewart, Juliette Binoche
Honours & Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Kristen Stewart)—César Awards 2015, NY Film Critics Circle 2015
Watch because: from first frame to last, this is an absolutely incandescent performance by Kristen Stewart. Juliette Binoche is no slouch either.

Ex Machina

Directed by: Alex Garland (screenwriter: 28 Days Later, Sunshine)
Notable performances:
 Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson
Honours & Awards: Best British Independent Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Outstanding Achievement in Craft—British Independent Film Awards 2015; Top 10 Independent Films—National Board of Review 2015
Watch because: striking visuals, and three very strong acting performances, drive a science fiction narrative that actually cares about ideas.

White God

Directed by: Kornél Mundruczó (Johanna)
Notable performances:
Zsófia Psotta, 250 dogs
Honours & Awards: Prix un certain regard—Cannes Film Festival 2014
Watch because: where else can you see 250 dogs storming the streets of Budapest in a canine uprising—without CGI augmentation.


Directed by: Céline Sciama (Tomboy)
Notable performances:
Karidja Touré in a breakthrough
Honours & Awards: Nominated for Best Director, Most Promising Actress (Karidja Touré), Best Sound, Best Music—César Awards 2015
Watch because: “Raw and insistent, bold and brawling, Girlhood throbs with the global now, illustrating the ways an indifferent society boxes in the people who grow up in project-style boxes.”

The Duke of Burgundy

Directed by: Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio)
Notable performances:
Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna
Honours & Awards: Best Composer: Cat’s Eyes—European Film Awards 2015
Watch because: it’s, oh, just another “densely layered, slyly funny portrayal of the sadomasochistic affair between two lesbian entomologists.”

The Salt of the Earth

Directed by: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado (Nauru: An Island Adrift), Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire; Paris, Texas; Pina)
Honours & Awards: Un Certain Regard Special Prize—Cannes Film Festival 2014; Best Documentary—César Awards 2015
Watch because: this is one case where “epic emotional journey” a) is not an inflated description and b) unexpectedly describes a documentary about a photographer. Without doubt the most deeply moving film I have seen this year.

It Follows

Directed by: David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover)
Notable performance:
Maika Monroe
Honours & Awards: Nominated for Best Director, Best Editing, Best Cinematography—Independent Spirit Awards 2016; Top 10 Independent Films—National Board of Review 2015
Watch because: it’s for anyone who likes their creep-outs smart, aware of film history, socially astute, but most of all—actually scary.

While We’re Young

Directed by: Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha)
Notable performances:
 Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin
Honours & Awards: Top 10 Independent Films—National Board of Review 2015
Watch because: in a film comedically juiced by clever casting and spot-on X-er/millennial collisions, the ultimate highlight is a Ben Stiller performance that (at least for its runtime) will make you forget all about his career bloat.

Wild Tales

Directed by: Damián Szifron (The Six Billion Dollar Manyes that is happening in 2017)
Notable performances:
 several, spread across 6 different stories—my fave is Érica Rivas as the bride, Romina
Honours & Awards: Best Spanish Language Foreign Film—Goya Awards (Spain); nominated for Best Foreign Language Film —2015 Academy Awards
Watch because: “in its vibrant lunacy, and with its cartoonishly brash violence, it’s a little bit Almodóvar, a little bit Tarantino”—and probably a little bit Buñuel too, if less psychoanalytic and subversive.


Directed by: Albert Maysles (Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens)
Honours & Awards: Best Documentary Feature (Audience Award)—Hamptons International Film Festival 2014
Watch because: this biopic/slice-of-life doc portrait of fashion icon Iris Apfel, she of the enormous chunky glasses and bracelets, gains added poignancy from its scenes of the 100th birthday of her husband Carl (since deceased), and a couple of brief glimpses of legendary director Maysles (also since deceased).

Berberian Sound Studio (Netflix Canada picks)

18 Sep
September 18, 2015

Peter Strickland, UK, 2012, 92 minutes

When I saw Peter Strickland’s strange, Lynch-esque love letter to giallo at TIFF 2012, I was quite taken with it, but expressed some reservations about the ending.  I stand by that review but I have to say that watching this film, first at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto, then on Blu-ray at home, it has really held up for me, and is a welcome addition to Netflix. Of the various postmodern giallo mashups we’ve seen in the last few years, for me this is still the best.

review: Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland)

11 Sep
September 11, 2012

Berberian Sound Studio is a strange little paradox of a film. Aesthetically outstanding in its referencing of giallo cinema of the seventies, and its fetishistic deployment—and editing—of analogue sound, the second feature from UK director Peter Strickland features a note-perfect performance by Toby Jones as a put-upon English sound engineer who has been recruited to record the audio for a fictional giallo movie called The Equestrian Vortex. We see none of this film other than a brilliantly-imagined main title animation—rather we witness fruits and vegetables being smashed and ripped to create the sounds of horrifying acts of violence, actresses screaming with varying degrees of convincingness, and Jones watching the screen in disbelief. The film is grounded in how sound engineers actually work yet creates a closed-off little universe that is increasingly surreal.

But it does feel in the end as if Berberian Sound Studio has not quite arrived at its best possible destination. It is kind of a distant but clearly recognizable cousin of Mulholland Drive, with a relationship to giallo much like the Lynch film’s relationship to Hollywood, but in a more constrained way. The repeated scene of the red, blinking “Silenzio” light in the studio, for example, seems a call-back to Mulholland Drive’s Club Silencio, suggesting that the studio, like the club, is a portal to an alternate reality. When the plot inevitably begins to fold back and double on itself, Lynch style, it’s hard to feel that this film has managed those moves nearly as well as its predecessor.

That said, I still want the soundtrack, and yes, I want to know exactly what soundtracks are on Strickland’s own playlist.