Classic Review: Belle de Jour
What We ThoughtGenre: Drama
What We Liked :Catherine Deneuve is incredible in the lead role Difficult subject matter dealt with delicacy
What We Disliked:Plot gets too convenient in the end to keep the realism
Belle de Jour never flinches from showing the inner-most desires of a woman who at her heart is a masochist. It delves into the psychosis like few other films can claim.
Belle de Jour had to of been shocking when it came out in 1967. Séverine Serizy (Catherine Deneuve, Repulsion) is the loving housewife, who reacts frigidly when it comes to being intimate with her husband. She needs something a little more erotic. She’s married to Pierre Serizy (Jean Sorel) a young doctor who dreams of having a child. Séverine has other wishes in mind as she dreams about being dominated by her sexual partners.
It’s amazing then how restrained the material in Belle de Jour remains throughout it’s run-time. Given it’s description it sounds more comfortable as an adult film, but like Séverine herself, there’s a high level of class involved. There’s a low-level of nudity and there is absolutely no intercourse shown. Belle de Jour is more considered with delving into the sexual desires of a woman who wants her sex life to be much more explicit than the reality.
Séverine discovers an outlet for her sexual desires. A family friend, Henri (Michel Piccoli), provokes her to visit a friend of his. Madame Anais (Geneviève Page) owns a high-class client brothel and entices Séverine to join her circle of women. Séverine will now be able to find an escape from her suffering because each of these men have fantasies of their own. One of the men is interested in BDSM and bondage to get his fix, while another, prefers to be dominated by his hired prostitute. These encounters open up Séverine’s mind to endless possibilities.
When Séverine is at work she is known as Belle de Jour (beauty of the day) because she must be home when her husband returns at five. She’s allowed these freedoms based on her elegant beauty, but that also gets her into trouble. A young gangster, Marcel (Pierre Clémenti), has fallen in love with her and requests her at every possibility. He is insanely jealous of her husband and blindly demands that Séverine should be his. The problem is that he fulfills every desire Séverine wishes for and she soon has trouble juggling her double-life.
Belle de Jour switches effortlessly between the dreams and reality that Séverine lives through. While the material doesn’t hold quite the same shock as it did in 1967, it never flinches from showing the inner-most desires of a woman who at her heart is a masochist. Director Luis Buñuel made a film that delves into the psychosis like few other films can claim and Belle de Jour remains fascinating and provoking to this day.