Maitresse (Mistress)

Barbet Schroeder's most recent fiction film pairs the two leading stars of the New French Cinema, Gerard Depardieu (The Last Woman, 1900) and Bulle Ogier, as - respectively - an amateur burglar and a professional sex sadist who meet accidentally and become involved. In ritualizing the sex in the film, Maitresse avoids sensationalizing its kinky material: however, the film is “disturbing,” intentionally, in its ambivalence towards the masochistic component in many, if not all, sex/love relationships. The film was one of several films featured at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival which showed important “art film” directors approaching hard-core sexual material: the most controversial such effort being Nagisa Oshima's Corrida of Love (The Realm of the Senses). In his report from Cannes, L.A. Times critic Charles Champlin noted: “Barbet Schroeder... has made a fairly bizarre romance.... Depardieu is a burglar trying to burgle the apartment of Ogier, a high-priced lady of trade catering to extreme tastes. There is a funny sequence in which his flashlight plays over a cupboard full of whips, chains, and other exotic gear. To its credit and salvation, the movie makes the kinkiness look absurd, forlorn, and desperate.... The love between the stars is, on the other hand, real, straighforward, touched by old-fashioned jealousy, brought to a happy ending and to a refreshing hint that things do not change quite as much as they sometimes seem to.”

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