“Maîtresse” (1976)

Tonight it was Maîtresse, Barbet Schroeder’s love story between a simple petty thief (Gérard Depardieu) and a professional dominatrix (Bulle Ogier). It’s an interesting movie, blending the two halves of the couple’s lives so equally that their innocent country jaunts are casually juxtaposed with graphic (and apparently real) acts of S&M, including a spanking severe enough to break the skin and Ogier nailing a man’s penis to a board. (England gave the film an 18+ rating, but mainly because it shows the bared genitals of both sexes.) That easy juxtaposition is rather the point since the movie is about Depardieu’s attempt to get his head around what the love of his life does for a living, and things are balanced enough that you don’t get hung up on the sex acts; by the ending, I kid you not, I was fixating more on the beautiful rubber corsets and masks that Karl Lagerfeld designed for Ogier and her clients, and on the black marble dungeon that serves as her workplace. (The movie also has 2-3 shots which, in context, are breathtaking little visual feasts.) If Maîtresse has a flaw, it’s that the couple’s romance—the “upstairs” part of the movie—comes across as a tad literal, mundane even. I wouldn’t have minded if Schroeder had gotten as weird with his story-line as he did with his sex scenes, but perhaps he felt enough was enough.

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