Barbet Schroeder – Maîtresse [+Extras] (1975)
Drifter Olivier (Gérard Depardieu) lands in Paris and partners up on a friend’s home invasion. Ostensibly they’re breaking into the vacant flat of a vacationing old lady, but in reality it’s the kinky dungeon of a high-class dominatrix with a powerful client list. The bearish Depardieu falls for the lithe professional, blonde Ariane (Bulle Ogier) in a black bob wig and dressed in tight leather and latex, and soon moves into her handsome flat while she plies her trade downstairs. Barbet Schroeder’s kinky little slice of sexual decadence is initially titillating and erotic, but soon turns grotesque. Ariane’s clients desire her domination but only as contracted: They control their abuse. The romance becomes a warped mirror of her career, Ariane allowing Olivier the appearance of control as he slides behind the driver’s seat of her car, but setting the parameters of his dominance. Easygoing Olivier soon begins to simmer with frustration and jealousy, unable to comprehend her twisted world of sexual deviance, and attempts to “save” her from her lifestyle. Schroeder pushes the portrayal of S&M and bondage to the limits with graphic scenes of pain, torment, and mutilation, presented with a bland detachment that makes them all the more uncomfortable to watch. He brings that same dispassionate attitude to the romance, which results in an uninvolving yet undeniably fascinating story of a quirky affair.