Dir: Stephen Lance. Australia. 2013. 104mins
There’s no lack of major talent working on Stephen Lance’s debut feature. The young director of notable short films and music videos has recruited leading French actress/beauty Emmanuelle Béart to play the title dominatrix. And he has wrangled top costume designer Angus Strathie to provide stunning latex, PVC and leather creations for her; plus there is veteran cameraman Geoffrey Simpson and editor Jill Bilcock.
Béart plays Maggie, high-class, high-heeled prostitute, dab hand with a whip, who is somehow marooned in an empty gated mansion with a tangled rain forest backyard and a swimming pool.
It’s an unexpectedly lush production trailing Lance’s World Cinema influences — Fasbinder, Lynch, Almodovar, Bunuel, etc. The fact that My Mistress looks out of place, set as it is in suburban Queensland, doesn’t detract from the director’s ambition and obvious promise. The feature opened locally on very limited release: it may well have better prospects in Europe.
Béart plays Maggie, high-class, high-heeled prostitute, dab hand with a whip, who is somehow marooned in an empty gated mansion with a tangled rain forest backyard and a swimming pool. One room, however, is expensively kitted out as an ersatz torture chamber. Into her dangerous orbit comes teenaged Charlie (Harrison Gilbertson), a James Dean lookalike who has shockingly just discovered his father hanging in the family garage.
Numb, and in rebellion against his distraught mother Kate (Rachael Blake), Charlie goes to the sexy newcomer for help. At first Maggie recommends a cold shower, a glass of scotch and the regular incantation of “I surrender my body into the abyss”. Before long, of course, things get heated between them, though the movie is more interested in style than actual flesh.
Never dull, the sadomasochistic relationship between boy and mistress is never quite believable, always faintly absurd. The handsome Gilbertson makes an impression as the pained hero and is clearly destined for an international career. There’s a full-on musical score from Stephen Rae. And a credit roll listing of a ‘BDSM Consultant’.
Production companies: Mini Studios, Dust Bunny Productions
International sales: LevelK, www.levelk.dk
Producers: Leanne Tonkes, Steve Kearney
Executive producers: Gérard Lee, Robyn Kershaw, Bruno Charlesworth
Screenplay: Stephen Lance, Gérard Lee
Cinematography: Geoffrey Simpson
Editors: Jill Bilcock
Production designer: Matti Crocker
Music: Stephen Rae
Main cast: Emmanuelle Béart, Harrison Gilbertson, Rachael Blake, Socratis Otto, Leah Purcell, Noah Fontaine