Severine is a beautiful young woman married to a doctor. She loves her husband dearly, but cannot bring herself to be physically intimate with him. She indulges instead in vivid, kinky, erotic fantasies to entertain her sexual desires. Eventually she becomes a prostitute, working in a brothel in the afternoons while remaining chaste in her marriage.Written by
James Meek <firstname.lastname@example.org>
While the film was shooting, Catherine Deneuve said publicly that she was enjoying making the film. Other than remarking that shooting some of the brothel scenes could be "difficult," she said at the time that she was "in awe" of Luis Buñuel and called him "wonderful to work with; kind, understanding, very sweet, very human." See more »
Marcel breaks the glass and oval frame to vent his anger. The same frame and picture are unbroken later. See more »
Monsieur Duke, shall I let the cats in?
To hell with you and your cats!
See more »
The premise of BELLE DU JOUR is well known. A young, beautiful, and slightly frigid doctor's wife (Catherine Deneuve) secretly harbors fantasies of being dominated, humiliated, and abused by her husband (Jean Sorel.) When these fantasies can no longer be denied, she becomes a prostitute under the sponsorship of a possibly lesbian madam (Geneviève Page), working during the afternoons while her husband is at his own work. Her sexuality is awakened by the sometimes brutish clients, who soon discover that "she likes it rough," and she is ultimately caught up a relationship with a truly dangerous client (Pierre Clémenti) whose possessiveness threatens to destroy both her and her husband.
Throughout the film Deneuve slips in and out of memory and fantasy, sometimes recalling herself as a possibly molested child, sometimes imagining herself as the victim in a series of sexual assault fantasies. Director Bunuel, whose masterpiece this is, so blurs the line between memory, reality, and fantasy that by the film's conclusion one cannot be sure if some, most, or everything about the film has been Deneuve's fantasy.
Although it includes a number of impressive performances (particularly by Geneviève Page, her girls, and their clients), BELLE is essentially Deneuve's film from start to finish, and she gives an astonishing performance that cannot be easily described. Like the film itself, it is a balancing act between fantasy and a plausible reality that may actually be nothing of the kind. Bunuel presents both her and the film as a whole in an almost clinical manner, and is less interested in gaining our sympathy for the character than in presenting her as an object for intellectual observation.
Ultimately, BELLE DU JOUR seems to be about a lot of things, some of them obvious and some of them extremely subtle. And yet, given the way in which it undercuts its realities by blurring them with fantasy, it is also entirely possible that the film is not actually "about" anything except itself. Individuals who insist on clear-cut meanings and neatly wrapped conclusions will probably loathe it--but those prepared to accept the film on its own terms will find it a fascinating experience. Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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