Belle de Jour Reviews
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.