Sunday, October 9, 2011

Belle de jour

By s. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , ,
(101 min, 1967)
Director: Luis Buñuel
Writers: Joseph Kessel (novel), Luis Buñuel (adaptation)
Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel and Michel Piccoli

Whatever you want it to be.

Severine (Catherine Deneuve) 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.

“Belle de Jour” is a unique movie – it's sexy, but at the same time very subtle. It does not contain even one explicit sex scene, it always cuts away to another scene in the last moment, it leaves a lot of things unsaid and it chooses innuendos instead of actual events unfolding on screen. In the movie where we get an access to main heroine's deepest secrets and darkest fantasies that technique works amazingly well – it makes you wonder, it makes you shape the movie in your thoughts.

Apart from the interesting narration and fascinating style two things make this movie legendary – the scene with mysterious box and Catherine Deneuve's performance. The box is being brought to the brothel by one of the clients, he shows the girls what's in it. But the audience never sees inside of the box. When Luis Buñuel was asked about what's in that box he replied “whatever you want it to be”. That's the power of the movie – it awakes imagination in its viewer. Deneuve's performance is probably her best one, right after “Repulsion”. She is nothing like Carol trapped in her madness here. She is confident, icy, reserved. A perfect housewife with ideal husband and house. Deneuve portrays Severine's journey beautifully – she maintains her facade, being satisfied with her fantasies, until she learns about brothel. First she's curious and so excited about the idea that she actually trembles and can't stop thinking about, just like children waiting for Christmas. Then she's afraid of actually going through with it. Then she surrenders completely and finds true ecstasy in it.

Severine dreams of being humiliated – raped, tied up, helpless. She even fantasies about her husband and his friend throwing mud on her. In “Repulsion” there is a margin left for wondering why is Carol damaged sexually. In “Belle de Jour” we clearly see young Severine being groped by some man. Either it was one, separate event or she was abused – now she is deeply damaged but we meet her when she's dealing with it. She only has her fantasies. And even when she becomes prostitute she is always in control – she can say stop, she can leave whenever she likes. And most of all – she's enjoying what's going on.

The girl does enjoy sex alone, not sex with particular people in the brothel. She loves the experience, the total erotic freedom. Her secret life where she can indulge her thirst for humiliation – because it is one – respectable surgeon's wife taking money for sleeping with complete strangers. But then Marcel comes along, hit man, who is completely different from Severine's husband – both in looks and in personality – he is unpredictable, violent, dangerous. Severine is dominated and when she tries to take control back - tragedy occurs.

The movie's ending brings freedom to Severine. All those years she dreamed of something perverse, dangerous, degrading to her. But as unexpected twist arrives Severine starts missing her old life, normal life. When her existence stops being ideal she is finally dreaming of regular, ordinary life, which she once had. She no longer fantasize about humiliation. That's why the carriage, appearing in her fantasies is empty in the end – her mind is free now, the carriage heading to the land of perversion doesn't take her a passenger anymore.

The film is definitely one of a kind – delicate, subtle, but also deep down tempting and dirty. It has surrealism in it, a lot of fantasy sequences and a dreamlike haze that surrounds Severine, but it is easy to watch and to understand. There is a lot of clever foreshadowing included and everything ties in nicely in the end, but still leaves a room for the viewers to come up with their own conclusions. I wouldn't call this the most erotic movie of all time, but it is most certainly interesting and stirring. It makes your mind wander to the most unexpected places. I think every movie fan has to watch this film. And again, as with other great films – let's hope nobody remakes this one. Not even because the movie is so well made. They should never remake it because Deneuve is the ideal Severine. We don't have anyone nowadays capable of doing what she does here and looking as stunning as she looks.


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