When Olivier, played by a youthful Gérard Depardieu, breaks into an unassuming Parisian apartment he inadvertently enters the world of leather-clad dominatrix Ariane (Bulle Ogier), who entertains clients in her cold-black marble and neon dungeon. Olivier's fascination with Ariane soon turns to love, forcing him to question his own assumptions about sex, perversion and power.
Director Barbet Schroeder, who went on to make Barfly (1987), Reversal of Fortune (1990) and Single White Female (1992) in Hollywood, was aiming with Maîtresse to achieve a wholly non-judgmental exploration of the more extreme side of human sexuality, to strip it of its association with fascism and oppression. He called on the services of a real Parisian dominatrix who supplied on-set advice and much of her own equipment and also used several of her actual clients in the scenes where Ariane imprisons, abuses and humiliates them.
Maîtresse was Schroeder's fourth feature, and caused controversy with its graphic scenes of torture and fetishism. Originally confined to a handful of club cinemas upon its release (I saw it at The Scala on double-bill with Marco Ferreri's The Last Woman / La dernière femme, which also stars Gérard Depardieu), it was then given an 'X' certificate in 1981 after the BBFC requested a number of cuts. Presented here uncut on DVD and, for the first time, on Blu-ray, Maîtresse is a stylish love story – costumes are by Karl Lagerfeld – with a dark undertone.
Maîtresse will be released on UK dual format (DVD and, for the first time, Blu-ray) by the BFI on 5th November 2012 at the RRP of £19.99.
Extra features are:
- Domestic Masochism: Barbet Schroeder's Maîtresse (2012, 28 mins): Dr Patricia MacCormack and Edward Lamberti analyse key scenes from Maîtresse
- Theatrical trailers for Maîtresse, More (1969) and The Valley (1972)
- Illustrated booklet featuring a newly commissioned essay by Dr Patricia MacCormack, a new interview with Barbet Schroeder and an original review
Maîtresse is also screening during the Uncut! season at BFI Southbank on Fri 16 Nov 18:20 in NFT2 (with introduction) and on Sun 18 Nov 15:40 in NFT1.
To mark the centenary of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in 2012, BFI Southbank presents Uncut!, a season of films which have been either banned or censored in the last century of cinema, curated by critic Mark Kermode and Professor in Film Studies at Southampton University Linda Ruth Williams. Taking place from 1 – 30 November 2012, this season will give film fans a chance to see some of the most contentious films ever made in their complete version on the big screen and will aim to illustrate how the BBFC's attitudes to confrontational material have changed over the years.