Buñuel weaves masterfully through scenes of Séverine's hum-drum existence with her cold husband, her surreal day job as a wanton prostitute, flashbacks to her childhood, and bizarre daydreams of her humiliation, bondage, rape, and torture. Deneuve is exquisite, playing one of the most difficult roles imaginable with her characteristic grace. I find it incredible that this film has gone unnoticed for so long.
At the heart of Belle is the question of how our selfish actions affect those around us. While Séverine's infidelity first seems incomprehensible, it soon becomes a vital part of her being and, eventually, degenerates into an inevitable nightmare which brings her world crashing down.
The sheer force that builds up behind the film's first scene had me thunderstruck for its entire 100 minutes. Deeply compelling, while remaining tasteful and never approaching pornographic, the film is an eerie exposé of the haunting desires that lie within us all. You truly have to see it for yourself.
The only problems with the film were some poor post-production values. First was the difficulty of a scratchy print with some skipped frames, especially noticeable during the imagery-filled daydream sequences. More troubling were the incomplete subtitles, which often left out seemingly important snippets of dialogue. Maybe they weren't important after all, but it was enough to break the fragile mood.
Regardless, Belle De Jour tells a story that desperately needs to be heard and which is even more relevant today than when it was made 28 years ago. A true classic worthy of its highest praises, I urge you to see it.
The DVD includes the original American theatrical trailer, which makes the movie look like a Russ Meyer wankfest. All whips and lingerie, with narration along the lines of "Her deepest, most secret, most twisted desires... revealed in all their perversion!!!"
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 10th April 1968
Distributed by: Miramax Zoe
Production compaines: Paris Films Productions, Five Films, Robert et Raymond Hakim
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 40 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.8 / 10
Director: Luis Buñuel
Screenwriter: Luis Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carriere
Starring: Catherine Deneuve as Séverine Serizy, Michel Piccoli as Henri Husson, Jean Sorel as Pierre Serizy, Geneviève Page as Madame Anais, Pierre Clémenti as Marcel, Françoise Fabian as Charlotte, Macha Méril as Renée, Georges Marchal as Graf, Francisco Rabal as Hyppolite, Luis Buñuel as Man in Gardencafe