Belle de Jour Reviews

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sanjurosamurai
Super Reviewer
July 30, 2013
there is a point at which the film stands still a bit too long, but taken as a whole its commentary on the human psyche is very interesting and effective. of course, deneuve is very good, as are each of the supporters, and the mapping of the film was well done. a very good film.
366weirdmovies
Super Reviewer
½ February 6, 2012
Catherine Deneuve stars as a young housewife with masochistic fantasies who feels compelled to work as a prostitute during days while her husband is at work. An ambiguous, dreamlike ending caps this subtle, psychologically complex drama.
Super Reviewer
½ September 10, 2011
Her name is "Belle De Jour," a "daylight beauty." An exploratory on fantasies and on the bourgeoisie, Belle De Jour is a surreal, artful erotica from Luis Buñuel affirmed by a mesmerizing performance from Catherine Deneuve, garbed in Yves Saint Laurent. Bizarre.
ebs90
Super Reviewer
December 31, 2010
Séverine and Pierre have just been married. He works most of the day at a hospital, and she stays home. She doesn't do the household chores; there's a maid to do that. Sometimes she plays tennis with her friend Renée. In all truth, she does nothing, and as the film begins her descent into ennui is evident, and helpless. All the while, her relationship with Pierre is celibate, as she cannot bring herself to be intimate with him; for that reason her daydreams grow increasingly intense, erotic and even masochistic. She realizes she must find an outlet for her desires outside of the marital bed.
One day, on a skiing vacation, Renée tells Severine that another 'respectable' housewife is known to be working at a brothel by day. Soon after, Pierre's friend Mr. Hussen, a man fascinated by Severine's virtue and by the idea of corrupting her, gives her the address of his "favorite whorehouse". And so Severine sets out to become Belle de Jour, for her own sake.
The main story of Belle de Jour is not surrealistic itself; in fact it's quite "grounded" and connected to perfectly relatable feelings and motives from most characters. There are recurrent dreams but they can be told apart from 'reality' with few exceptions. However, this doesn't mean that Buñuel's social commentary isn't as biting as in the rest of his work: one of the things that he makes stand out in the film is the obvious double morale in Severine's bourgeois circle, in which it's perfectly okay for men to visit whorehouses, but almost criminal for a woman to freely decide to work in one.
Michel Piccoli, although he's never been entirely of my liking, gives a great performance as the man whose mediocre 'libertinage' first shakes Severine's restless spirit. Jean Sorel is also very good as the innocent, unbearably understanding Pierre, and Macha Méril is lovely as always as Renée. However, Belle de Jour belongs to Deneuve and to Pierre Clémenti, who plays one of Severine's clients, a young criminal who falls madly in love? (or in lust?) with her. His performance is short but incredibly intense, tragic, and steals the show in all his scenes. He had that same menacing containment (a time-bomb quality) that Klaus Kinski became famous for. I think he's one of the main reasons to watch the film.
Catherine Deneuve's performance is astonishing: she changes ever so slightly as she discovers herself; she struggles to be a 'good' prostitute and evolves gracefully into the girl with the highest demand. Her walk grows less stiff, her smile becomes easier, but she never loses that high-class elegance that caused such a stir in Madame Anais's establishment. She's nothing short of wonderful and I can't imagine anyone else in this part.
Belle de Jour is as close as I've seen Buñuel get to a character study. In a subtle way he seems to empathize with Severine and make her self-inflicted emotional confinement come across with the same urgency as she experiences it, so regardless of our personal views on prostitution we have no doubt that she is doing what she deems appropriate to save herself (in this case Buñuel tries to 'explain' Severine with some flashbacks from her childhood)... It is an unusual subject, but an important one nevertheless: it isn't rare that our biggest limitations should come from within ourselves.
Super Reviewer
December 13, 2010
hypnotic and sexy
Super Reviewer
½ August 13, 2010
Luis Bunuel's best film.
Super Reviewer
December 31, 2008
Sèverine is perfect, she's Catherine Deneuve. She consciously inhabits her subconscious and the comings and goings are tinted with pristine, erotic decadence. Her perfection includes outrage without rage, panic without fear. Having or not having is the question she never asks. Her husband Pierre, the exquisite Jean Sorel, is like one of her garments. There, stunning, understated, reliable, existing without existing. Marcel, in the other hand, the riveting Pierre Clementi, seems determined to provoke. Provoke what? Where is that need creeping from? I love to meander through "Belle de Jour" allowing Luis Bunuel to have his fun. He deserves it. His puzzle is just that, a puzzle and his genius, challenge us to find the non existent pieces. The pieces are ours coming from our own wishes, wantings and longings.
Super Reviewer
½ April 13, 2009
Didn't I review this already? I keep getting the impression that Flixster erases some of my reviews willy nilly. Oh well, this is still a great film and is the ultimate performance by Catherine Deneuve in my totally non biased way :)
Super Reviewer
December 26, 2012
Rating: 3 stars
Arthouse Rating: 3.5 stars

Luis Bunuel created the colorful and seductive work of Belle de Jour. An emotionally but not sexually pleased woman, who goes into prostitution, and also has several bondage fantasies. The film opens with one of these fantasies, and similar to the opening suicide scene in Harold & Maude, we are informed it isn't reality. Everything does feel real enough though, the genuine development of the character "Belle de Jour" was paced professionally. The tension between her and an obsessive client brings a true turning point in the story.

The film had you sucked in the whole time, it played with your mind, and pushed the borders. While it did expose some taboos to the screen, I believe it didn't go to far, as to making the viewer turned off. While it was entertaining, I believe the end was unexplained. Bunuel had the potential to pull anything out during the full film, but the ending was delicate, and it ended up coming out of nowhere. I have no true explanation, while it did stick to you, I think it'll result in the movie being forgotten in the mind. The core of the film is toned, but there was no outer result.
Super Reviewer
July 19, 2011
"Belle de jour" has a reputation that preceded it upon my initial viewing of the film, this being that it is one of the most artfully done and surreal erotic works in all of film. While the film itself is sexy in it's own perverse way it is more a realistic, if somewhat disturbing, expression of sexual liberation and fantasy in this case of many different individuals. Not only is Belle de jour (The working name for Catherine Deneuve's character Severine) finding her sexual fantasies finally fulfilled in the brothel house in which she makes her way too after collapsing to her boredom and compliant existence, but also the customers who come to the brothel. Each has their own fantasies and ideas for indulging in these fantasies with the girls and express it in varied and at times downright disturbing ways. The film isn't one filled with nudity and pornographic portrayal but with just enough to skin and just enough lingering of the camera to realize what is happening and then we move on to the next event. It's a masterpiece in this regard, as it captures the disturbing and masochistic tendencies of Severine as Belle de jour who is finally content in her life after becoming a prostitute. She still has a husband, however physically lacking to her needs, that she loves and doesn't want to hurt and also a moral belief that what she is doing is wrong and she will indeed be punished for it. The film will meet this fate in a more literal way than one dealing with spiritual punishment as the gangster who has fallen for her shows up at her home and threatens her secret and in a very real way, her entire existence. The film ends with dire consequences for both Severine's husband and the gangster who is infatuated with her however, Severine herself essentially gets away with her sexual debauchery. What a great and surreal work where Catherine Deneuve portrays the title character flawlessly and is reminiscent of her character in "Repulsion" for Roman Polanski even though both works are different works entirely. I would highly recommend "Belle de jour" for anyone interested in cinema within a serious scope of realizing and appreciating technique and story as well as disturbing and surrealist ideals. This is a masterpiece by one of the greatest of French Director's Luis Bunuel's works and is thought provoking cinema on a hard to cover and display topic that is indeed captured with passion.
Super Reviewer
October 4, 2012
One of the most amazing surrealistic film after Un Chien Andalou, It's so beautifully directed, every scene in the film blended so well together. The acting was so natural, Catherine shines as Severine. There are so much subtext and sexual innuendos but yet there is nothing graphic. I can't express how much I appreciate the direction of Bunuel. One of the best films from the French Cinema.
Critique Threatt
Super Reviewer
April 12, 2010
I think is one of the best films about a housewife who decides to work at a brothel and explore her hidden masochistic fantasies. There is a early scene in the film where Séverine Serizy(Catherine Deneuve) is imagining two men is seen ripping of her clothes followed by whips(since she is into bondage) and then throwing mud in her face while taunting out degrading words.

Séverine loves her husband but not sexually and decides to go out and work at a brothel. Scared at first since she has never done anything like this becomes aquainted by Madame Anaïs(Geneviève Page) who takes Séverine under her wings while teaching her the game of brothel life. Soon Séverine rises the ranks and becomes a favourite, particularly to gangster who offers her the thrills and excitement contained in her fantasies. Their business relationship turns a bit sour as the young gangster becomes deadly due to his jealousy and threatning demands.

It's a soft film and can be humourous and yet erotic too(but in a quiet way) Bunuel seems to have a knack for this kind of material and a foot fetish for Severine's feet..."Sniff, sniff".
divinetrash
Super Reviewer
December 3, 2010
A very fascinating exploration of self-discovery and how sexuality ties us to each other, or in other cases can push us apart. Catherine Deneuve is perfect.
Super Reviewer
July 24, 2010
Brilliant psycho-sexual exploratory film by Luis Bunuel. It dared to look at the moral ambiguity of extreme sexuality through a deprived female's point of view(played by the Catherine Deneuve). Of course, it would not be a complete Bunuel film without the trademark surrealist images. But unlike his other works, "Belle de Jour" is pretty much aware of its sudden jumps, be it the straightforward reality, or the protagonist's self-gratifying fantasies. Thus catapulting her in a decision to become a "prostitute", a choice filmed by Bunuel with a natural ease of conversational exchanges rather than a more sensationalist way, a brief scene(between Severine and Madame Anais) that I found to be a little out of place in a work of such an eccentric director. But Bunuel, always the Bourgeois satirist, has yet again injected some brief criticisms to the said social class, but this time not to their lavish excesses. Instead, as it being an open film about sex, it critiques the bizarre fixations of the rich ones, ranging from "slave-mistress" role-playing, to necrophilia(underlined by the reaction of Deneuve's character; More fascinated than disgusted). "Belle de Jour" is a film that may account to limitless interpretations, and countless speculations about its ambiguous overcoat. But stripping it off its complex backbone, it's simply a consequential tale of a "pure" housewife which happened to enter a place that houses "the oldest profession in the world". Not by chance. But by choice. Then everything else follows.
mvieaddict
Super Reviewer
½ October 8, 2009
I've just been reading all the reviews and ratings of my Flixster friends who had seen Belle de Jour, and some of them had rated this movie very high. I am unable to share the same rating because I did not like the movie and I could not waste a good review on it.This movie was nothing special. It was actually boring. Some scenes pretend to be real but it was not defined She did not wanted to be intimated with her husband, but then she want to prostitute.huh? I never could understand this part. I never could trace when she was dreaming or when it was real in the movie.I have to say, maybe someone more familiar with Bunuel's work could understand this movie. I think even if Bunuel could have thrown any crap on the screen, his fans would find it brilliant.Sorry I did not.
Super Reviewer
September 18, 2008
Classic Bunuel! Symbolism runs deep in a movie that will leave you a fan of Catherine Deneuve.
July 24, 2014
Interesting Buñuel piece about a woman seeking liberation by being a "woman of the day" since she is only available while her husband's at work.

What follows is a series of events that takes her down a new road she might not be ready for. Deneuve is excellent in her role. Buñuel offers some classic imagery that he has been famous for.

But, in the end, you wonder if there is much point beyond Deneuve's journey. And, the ending is left to interpretation. That isn't bad, and is actually the highlight of the film, since it is where the film is set free.
½ September 21, 2008
it's a good psychological movie about hidden desires of a woman who decided to follow those desires and live double life. She is in one way a representative person of all of us and of everyone's hidden thoughts, wishes, desires. Very impressive movie.
June 30, 2015
Luis Bunuel's Bell de Jour, power seems to grow stronger the more I've seen it.
This is a prime example of Surrealist Film put into complete action. Filmed in 1966, the film is dated. But it is clear that Belle de Jour was way ahead of the cultural curve. At the time of it's release it was considered controversial, perverse, bordering on pornography and shocking. It no longer holds that level of shock for audiences, but it bravely attempts to explores the mind of a female masochist close to 50 years ago when there was no clear understanding available. Catherine Deneuve, in all her Yves St. Laurent and blond glory, is an upperclass young married woman who has begun to find her marriage boring. Her husband, similar to a sexless Ken doll, obviously holds no erotic connection for her. Distant and cold. Alice is rather "removed" from her own life. Her day is pointless. And, with very clever editing Buñuel manages to reveal a great deal about her childhood that connects to her adult self. It is clear that she desires a force of eroticism from her husband that is beyond his understanding. When Alice hears about the existence of underground Parisian brothels where lower class housewives earn extra money. She ventures to explore this world. And, it is in this brothel that she discovers and has her sexual desires fulfilled. Alice's reality has already been mixing with fantasy long before she explores the world of prostitution, but the viewer's ability to detect "reality" from "surreality" has become challenging. As Alice begins to learn how to assert her power and sexuality as a woman, we are grappling with the differences between her reality and fantasies as much as she. Buñuel's conclusion offers two endings employing visual and audio editing but don't expect resolution or any clearly defined answer. In the end, it does not matter. The merging of the "real" with the "fantasy" is the "surreal" is, in many ways, an exceptional way to form this void. An individual who only seems to come to life when punished. The character is not intended to be fully formed. Alice is a stunted beauty at the mercy of not only her situation and those around her -- but to her eternal confusion between reality and fantasy. A cinematic masterpiece that continues to stand the test of time and presents an oddly valid connection to the root of masochism. This is essential viewing for anyone who loves film.
March 20, 2015
There is something about glamour that is so ... unglamorous. Once you get past the pristine mist of designer products, enviably beautiful people, and inexplicable shine (Is it the money? The power? The final hour?), what's left? Someone who carefully dresses their life with opulent panache can never truly be happy; a few too many Benjamins cannot purchase a coherent existence. Look at all those 1950s housewives: while they might have a husband all the other ladies on the block swoon over, while they might have perfect kids, and while they might have the most picturesque house in the county, behind their cherry red lipstick and gleaming manicured nails is a hollow interior. Choose style over substance and you'll be left with a designated look, not a feeling.
Séverine (a luminous Catherine Deneuve in her breakthrough performance) is suffering from such problems. She has recently married Pierre (Jean Sorel), a nice enough, handsome enough, rich enough surgeon that leaves her well-off but somewhat fatigued. Her afternoons may as well have tumbleweeds rolling through their mundane rituals, but even when Pierre comes home from work, there is hardly a spark being set off: it seems that once you settle down, you settle down, and if you haven't married a spitfire, you can't expect to be continuously knocked off your feet.
Séverine spends most of her days in the grips of sexual fantasy, mostly sadomasochistic and mostly reprehensible. We only vaguely know her background, but Séverine's desires to be punished, objectified, and hated act as the gasoline to her sensuous fire. In a brief flashback, we see her as a young girl disobeying her priest during communion; is it because she is stubborn, barbed, or corrupt? One can hardly say; in "Belle De Jour", she is a maiden of glaze that projects more emotion with her slender hands that her face.
In a casual conversation with friends, the very scandalous idea of prostitution is brought up. It's the world's oldest profession, but is it as prevalent as it used to be? An outsider makes it clear that, yes, something so taboo is still alive and strong. The tone of the exchange is hardly serious, but Séverine's dead expression says otherwise. She doesn't want to say it aloud, but the idea of becoming a call girl brings an adrenaline kick like no other. She isn't doing anything important in the afternoon; why not entertain herself (and other men) until her husband brings home the daily bacon?
When "Belle De Jour" turned into an international success in 1967, Luis Buñuel was nearing 70, an age where most directors should be retiring; but at 67, Buñuel is at his most salient and his most stingingly observant. One might initially expect blatant erotica with a film so sexual at its core, but "Belle De Jour" is even sexier than all those immodest "Emmanuelle" moneymakers; it holds the power of suggestion like a little girl clinging to an antique China teapot after her grandmother tells her not to drop it. The film doesn't need, nor give into the urge, to set the screen on fire with slow-motion, sweaty, softly lit love scenes. As audience members, we expect too much; a screen can blur reality until it turns into a massive smudge. We've come to believe that if we're watching an action movie, we're going to see some witless but thrilling bloodshed; if we're watching a film deemed to be erotic, there better be some soft-core movement.
But what if the usual frankness was taken away from us, and we had to use our insight to fill in the extensive blanks? No matter how disappointed our inner 13-year old selves become, not showing something that we want to see is much more affecting than pouring sexuality onto the screen like an unstoppable liquid. Yet when a film as pointed as "Belle De Jour" contains so much mystery and so much surrealism, it's difficult to be completely focused on whether Deneuve will show as much skin as we want her to (spoiler: she doesn't). Everything seems to have a double-meaning, an introspective question; our lingering arousals are put on hold in favor of trying to make sense of it all.
There are a few times where Séverine exclaims that she could hardly live if she weren't also moonlighting as a prostitute, but there's something about how she says it that suggests otherwise. Is she doing it because she's dissatisfied, because she's disturbed, or is it something else? Personally, I think the authority involved is what turns her on. Her entire life, Séverine has mostly likely been looked at as an untouchable beauty that may as well be an object; people are afraid to approach her, scared that they might somehow morph her astonishing good looks. But as a lady of the day, men are no longer wary of her. She is giving her body to their depressing needs, and where most would feel materialized, she feels empowered. She doesn't have to be known as a surgeon's wife any longer; she is in control of the success of a romp, and being the focus of a man's humiliating passion puts her on a pedestal after acting as an ethereally attractive shadow for so long.
By the end of the film, though, it's hard to tell what has been real and what has been fake. Throughout much of its course, the fantasies and the flashbacks are completely separate, and we think we know what is and what isn't reality. But the conclusion (which would be unfair to tarnish), is so unpredictably bizarre that it offsets everything. It suddenly becomes a film, open to nearly anybody's interpretation. That's what has made Buñuel's movies last so long; with their abstract themes, it's hard to truly understand what he's trying to say, but he gives us enough content to keep us intrigued long after we've seen them. "Belle De Jour", as simple as it may seem at first, is knotted in its meaning, and the untangling process may take longer than a few days.
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