Starring Catherine Deneuve
Co-Written & Directed by Luis Buñuel
Those familiar to this space know that along with several other bloggers and critics across the city of Toronto; this critic is taking part in what we are calling the ‘Blind Spot Series’. To put it simply we put together a list of 12 films that in one circle or another are widely regarded as classic films that we have never seen and we review them from our unique first time viewing perspective. Out recently from our friends at the Criterion Collection is one of those films that made this critic’s list. From the late sixties it’s the erotic classic “Belle De Jour”.
“Belle De Jour” brings us Séverine (Deneuve), a Paris housewife who begins secretly spending her afternoon hours working in a bordello. This surreal and erotic late-sixties daydream from provocateur for the ages Luis Buñuel is an examination of desire and fetishistic pleasure (its characters’ and its viewers’), as well as a gently absurdist take on contemporary social mores and class divisions. Fantasy and reality commingle in this burst of cinematic transgression.
This surrealistic journey into the sexual psyche is certainly one for the ages and this critic can certainly see how it would be considered racy for the time. Buñuel takes us deep into the mind of our heroine who is inexorably torn between these two worlds; one which is proper and social acceptable and the other which is perverse and exciting. As she goes deeper and deeper into exploring her baser desires both worlds get tangled to the point of no return. Dancing seamlessly between the realms of fantasy and reality Buñuel takes us on a journey of self-discovery right alongside Séverine as she rectifies and comes to terms with the duality of her very nature. Not shockingly erotic like more current films; “Belle De Jour” is an intellectual barnstormer that enlivens the mind and the soul inspiring self-reflection and conversation on the very nature of human desires and the pleasures that they seek.
As the iconic Séverine; Catherine Deneuve shines as the porcelain goddess with the dark cracks in her soul as she takes a walk on the wild side to satisfy her baser desires. Struggling against the demands of ‘proper’ society, Deneuve takes us for an emotional ride down the rabbit hole of desires that she nearly doesn’t come back from. The rest of the cast delivers some strong performances all around but this film is all about Deneuve and the ride that we are taken for.
Extras on this set include:
- New high-definition digital restoration
- Audio commentary featuring Michael Wood, author of the BFI Film Classics book Belle de jour
- New video piece featuring writer and sexual-politics activist Susie Bright and film scholar Linda Williams
- New interview with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière
- Segment from the French television program Cinéma, featuring interviews with Carrière and actress Catherine Deneuve
- Original and rerelease trailers
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Melissa Anderson and a 1970s interview with director Luis Buñuel
Ultimately “Belle De Jour” is a fascinating and brilliantly paced film that dissects the social concepts of sex and desire and looks at how the repression and the denial of it all that are socially accepted go against our very nature as human beings and our compulsion to satisfy our own desires.
5 out of 5 stars.
“Belle De Jour” is available now at video stores across Toronto; you can click here for a list of some of the finer stores around town.
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