• R, 1 hr. 45 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Luis Buñuel
    In Theaters:
    Apr 10, 1968 Wide
    On DVD:
    Jan 22, 2002
  • Miramax Zoe

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Belle de Jour Reviews

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Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

May 10, 2011
Luis Bunuel's "Belle De Jour" is an enigmatic film..much like the mystical beauty at the heart of it.

Ravishingly beautiful, but a woman of a few words and seemingly aloof, Severine (Catherine Deneuve) is what you would call the typical "bored housewife", but not for any fault of her husband's mind you. Pierre (John Sorel) is a handsome, loving husband and together they lead a luxurious life, yet Severine is somehow averse to the idea of sleeping with her husband. Hence, although they share the same bedroom, they don't share the same bed, much to Pierre's dismay, but he chooses to hang in there hoping Severine would come around and overcome her discomfort.
Their family friend Henri (Michel Piccoli) openly flirts with Severine and she keeps rejecting his advances and asks him to keep his compliments to himself!

So aloof is Severine, that sometimes her mind wanders off (and the audience has to watch carefully to find out "when"), and she has vividly erotic fantasies of masochistic nature. Given her quiet nature, some of these fantasies manage to shock....for instance, when she imagines herself being tied and stripped and whipped and molested by two carriage drivers in the middle of the woods!

A chance information about an acquaintance entices her to explore something new...she decides to spend her afternoons in a high class brothel working as a prostitute!

"Belle De Jour" is a complex film. This doesn't refer to its plot..that part is fairly simple. What is complex, then, is Severine's troubled psychology. Only through various images and Severine's mood and expressions, Bunuel tries to convey to us what exactly brews in her head. It is with great dexterity that Bunuel directs the scenes in the brothel. Just like her, we are in for a surprise, every time a new client comes in. Her interactions with the several clients with bizarre fetishes of varying proportions are showcased in some of the film's best scenes.

Bunuel cleverly intersperses the narrative with fleeting shots depicting her (possibly traumatic) past...which give subtle clues about her behavioral traits. Some aspects of her psyche are revealed in some surreal sequences (some of the best I've seen in film).

For the most part, Bunuel directs like a true master and builds the film beautifully as it takes the form of a potent psycho-sexual drama which works to mesmerizing effect. But he does not rely on gratuitous sex and nudity to accomplish his goal. In fact there is not a single scene with explicit nudity in "Belle De Jour". Bunuel instead relies on shocking images including the situations in the brothel, Severine's outlandish fantasies, the overall tension between some characters (including a lesbian subtext) and of course, the fine performances. Suffice to say, "Belle De Jour" is one of the boldest films I've seen, especially for its time.

However, the episode involving a particularly violent client of Severine, Marcel (Pierre Clémenti) in the final act seems a bit forced and has the trappings of a pedestrian thriller, which could've been done away with or handled differently. The film would be just as effective, or even more, without this particular plot development. Nonetheless, it doesn't render this otherwise flawless film any less watchable.

At the center of this spellbinding experience, is the woman herself, Catherine Deneuve, the breathtaking beauty, who enchants us with her arresting performance as Severine. In spite of not being in agreement with her about some of the decisions she makes, one can't help but root for her. On some level, her character in "Belle De Jour" reminded me of her character in Roman Polanski's classic psychological thriller "Repulsion"..although both films as such are entirely different.

It wouldn't be wrong to say that although there are plenty of films depicting a married woman and her repressed sexuality out there, only a handful few, like Luis Bunuel's "Belle De Jour" actually stand out, the reasons for which you'll find out when you are done watching it!

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.

Super Reviewer

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.
Jan Marc M

Super Reviewer

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.

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.
Ken S

Super Reviewer

December 13, 2010
hypnotic and sexy
Michael S

Super Reviewer

August 13, 2010
Luis Bunuel's best film.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

September 23, 2009
This is a great film, one of many Luis Buñuel classics, erotic with the usual symbolic undertones, with the ever wonderful Catherine Deneuve.
Cassandra M

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.
John B

Super Reviewer

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 :)
Daniel D

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.
Chris B

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.
Sylvester K

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
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".

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.
Ivan D

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.

Super Reviewer

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.
Anthony V

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.
February 8, 2012
What made Luis Bunuel such a timeless film-maker, was his acute sense about the nature of the human condition, the animalistic base of man, and the veneer of social etiquette...Belle de Jour, while not in any way his magnum opus, is a prime example of the director's extraordinary talents...
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