Unforgettable, lyrical cinema, Belle de Jour is an effortless carnival of lust, imagination and mounted shame. Catherine Deneuve is the Parisian “Belle de Jour”, whose nocturnal call for masochistic pleasure transfers into daytime employment at a high-class bordello. A piece of contradiction, scandal and craft, Buñuel’s classic of modern-French cinema is an uproarious journey into the deepest valleys of our passions.
Belle de Jour's reputation may have been let down by its many later imitators, almost all of whom seem to replace its wit & eroticism with exploitation, but it remains one of Bunuel's masterpieces. Deneuve is perfect as the icy, unfulfilled bourgeois wife whose mind drifts into Anais Nin fantasy. The film has a psychological depth and a cynical humour in its more surreal moments, and some beautiful Parisian footage.
One’s liberation can be another one’s torture, or as in the case of Belle du Jour, the wife’s escape from the suffocating life of virtue leads to the castration and humiliation of the boy scout husband. Self-degradation and sexual submittance and eventually a gangster with broken teeth offer the way to freedom from the husband’s sexual desires. Brilliant, brutal, and comic. Love it.
Gorgeousness...however I had to endure the dubbed version as Mubi doesn’t make it clear that you can change the audio to French with subtitles, I had to work that out for myself. Surely the film should be presented as ‘VO’ rather than the terrible dubbed version? Having said that, the dubbed voices are so bad that it kinda adds to the detached surreal nature of the film....
This is a strange, heady brew, making some rather simple points (e.g. about women being judged on their perceived purity, about the danger of bringing fantasies to reality) but doing so with a whole lot of style and wit to keep things from ever being as bleak or torturous as they otherwise could have been.
Catherine Deneuve acts her double-life perfectly. Séverine is such a complex character! Her a seemingly fragile, silent personality allows for the interesting contrast with her sexual, "lost" side. The least extravagant Buñuel I've seen so far, which did require my expectations to switch modes, but a wonderful piece of cinema, no doubt.