Sunday, June 16, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: Belle de Jour (1967)

"Luis Buñuel's Masterpiece of Erotica!"

Directed by: Luis Bunuel (That Obscure Object of Desire)
Written by: Joseph Kessel (novel), Luis Buñuel (adaptation)
Starring: Catherine Deneuve (Séverine Serizy/Belle de Jour)

"In 2010, the film was ranked #56 in Empire magazine's list, The 100 Best Films of World Cinema. Belle de Jour won the Golden Lion and the Pasinetti Award for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival in 1967" - Wikipedia

Luis Buñuel, probably the king of surrealist films opens Belle de Jour, his first color film, with a couple of lingering shots and minimal sound which makes me feel like I was thrown in a different world or staring at beautiful paintings - which rightly sets the mood for 100 minutes of pure surreal movie experience.

Repressed sexuality, taboos and depravities - the deepest, darkest secret sexual desires of a seemingly frigid rich young woman married to a doctor who gets drawn into the dirty world of prostitution... by choice, and only at 2pm to 5pm, hence her whore name, "Belle de Jour" ("beauty of [the] day")... all that, in a sweetly-packaged mesh of fantasy and reality.

This is only the third movie of Catherine Deneuve that I've seen, and so far I gotta say that she is at her prime here - acting-wise & beauty. Seeing her in a role as a reserved, upperclass wife who refuses her husband's sexual advances (most likely due to traumatic childhood experiences) and yet finds herself getting caught in a sticky web of prostitution with her at the center, spinning thread after thread of sexual depravity, is pure decadent fun. It doesn't hurt as well that she's elegantly garbed by Yves Saint Laurent. Deneuve is really fast becoming one of my cinematic idols.

Anyway, so there's no turning back, she's hooked on being a hooker. She loves it. She knows it's bad & will only produce equally bad results, but she's too far in. She's conflicted but she's not going anywhere. In a scene where she was introduced to S & M, she asks Madame Anais how can anyone sink so low & not be disgusted by their actions. I'm not sure if she found the answer to that question but she certainly has sunk the lowest, then comes back to her husband (who looks like Mark Ruffalo, but prettier), satisfied & slowly changing, surer of herself.. freer.

In a man's world, where women are generally expected to be submissive, pure, devoid of any sexual perversions; while men enjoy the leniency of society, sometimes I wonder when they will realize that women are also sexual beings - not sexual objects - again, sexual beings, with different fantasies, different inclinations - and have the right to realize such fantasies without the fear of being labelled a whore? In this movie we see the lead character, hesitant at first, but coming back to Madame Anais' whorehouse, to cater every man's whims, not for the money but for the pleasure of experiencing her sexual awakening.

On the film's technical aspects, there is no background music except for the all-important bird/bell sounds; and the cinematography & lighting are not as visually satisfying as other films i've seen. It's probably intentional on Buñuel's part, I wouldn't know.. but it doesn't affect the quality of the film at all. The smooth/uninterrupted editing, I think is nicely done because the transition between Belle's fantasies & realities looks seamless which adds to the film's puzzling "which is which" reality. But the "fantasy" scenes, in my opinion, are just excellent in its simplicity, not too much garish artsy fartsy touch, but enough technical creativeness to give the audience a pure surreal treat. 


  • I enjoyed the scenes in Madame Anais' house, Belle's interactions with her and the other prostitutes. They play gin, they do crochet or whatever that is. They chat as if they're gossiping trophy housewives waiting for their hardworking husbands, when in reality, they're waiting for their next clients. There's just a sense of normalcy in that atmosphere. 

  • The characters are all very interesting as well. Marcel, that darker, more exotic James Franco version that is Pierre's antithesis. Husson. Madame Anais & her girls. The Professor. All are worth dissecting. 

  • In Severine's mind, she gives in to Pierre's mischievous friend's proposition. The humor in this scene is so refreshing, as Husson asks her if he can "give her a letter" & she agrees. He asks, "here? In front of all these people?" to which Severine answers "Even better." Then they go under the table & proceed to give/take the "letter", while Pierre asks Charlotte what they are doing under the table. 
"what are they doing?" ..."nothing. fooling around. take a look." ... (table shakes) "no just tell me." .... "he's giving her an envelope." "and now?"....."it has some lily seeds." -- LOL 

  • Belle's scene with the Oriental guy. There was something endearing in that scene. They didn't understand each other, but in a way it seems that they have connected. The mysterious box with a buzzing thing in it (I would like to think it's just a vibrator. Less headache.) symbolizes Belle's willingness to try something new, when the other girl (who has been in that profession longer, thus more experienced) has refused it. 

In the end, she looked so satisfied, so I guess it is a vibrator. LOL 

In this scene, after the Oriental guy left, Belle was seen by Pallas face down, seemingly exhausted or thoroughly abused. How wrong she was, when Belle looks up with a totally satisfied look.

People and their opinions..... When in fact, they don't know anything. Unless you are in a similar situation, you have no right to judge or assume things. 

In conclusion, Belle de Jour is not a bad choice for a Buñuel virgin. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing his masterful manipulation of his surrealist techniques and his tasteful execution of "sexual depravities" without having to resort to showing any nudity or crass sex scenes. At the end of the film, it's interesting to note that in a way, this is like a mix of Inception, The Housemaid, and Mulholland Drive, but satisfyingly less complicated. It doesn't mean that it won't leave you scratching your head, as Buñuel decides to keep this film open to your own interpretations.

Catherine Deneuve IS Belle de Jour. I just love her in this one.

My Rating:  4.5/5 - gets better after each re-watch.

YOUR POINT OF VIEW: What's your interpretation of the final scene, or the whole movie for that matter? 

Let me know what you think, LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, let's talk!  
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  1. I've not seen this film yet, wanted to watch with my lover.... My mouth is now watering with an interested appetite wishing to view this film even more after carefully and eagerly reading this review..... Thank you for sharing ... :)Regards, Tippy

    1. it's funny that you haven't seen it yet, you're the star in that film hahaha.. hoping you see this movie soon... would love to rewatch it as well...

      observe the bell sounds :)



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