Belle De Jour (1967), or Ooh La La!

16 01 2009
While the husbands away...

While the husband's away...

Hello. you wonderful people! How’s it going? Did you get enough sleep last night? Are you rested for the dawn that breaks over yonder horizon? You’d better be, because today we’ll be discussing something that demands your full attention. And that something is sexy ladies. I hope we’re on the same wavelength now. Because today’s feature, entitled Belle De Jour, is all about the sex, and it’s effect on people.

Séverine Serizy is a beautiful young housewife. She is married to a wealthy doctor, and their life is perfect. Everything is going well, except for one hitch. They don’t have sex. Ever. You see, the beautiful young housewife cannot bring herself to do it. She does not feel desire for him in any way. Their marriage is almost platonic. Instead, she fantasizes about a more wild sexual life, full of bondage, masochism, whips, and other fetishes. She keeps this to herself until one day she confesses to a friend these sexual desires. And instead of leading her down the straight and narrow path of marriage counseling and sexual experimentation with her husband, the guy actually mentions that maybe she could work at a high-class brothel he knows about (!) and admits a sexual desire for her himself. Some friend! To be fair, though, he does make the movie interesting. So she actually takes the guy up and seeks out the brothel. She begins to work there under the name Belle De Jour and fulfills her fantasies in the afternoons while at night remains frigid to her husband. What follows is an odyssey through love, jealousy, and desire that is compelling and rich to the very end.

Catherine Deneuve is Séverine, and she is a marvel. If she looks familiar, it is because she was Kathy in Dancer in The Dark, the Lars von Trier film from a few days ago. She may have aged 30 years, but she still looked gorgeous then, and she looks gorgeous in her prime circa 1967. She plays the role with compassion, and even sympathy for the character. Even though what she is doing is wrong, we still cannot wholly judge her because she captivates us. It is quite the conundrum, and it makes for good cinema.

But this film has the same problem as another film I reviewed, Barabas. Both of these movies it seems has a problem with the peripheral characters. I was not too thrilled with anyone else’s performance but Deneuve’s. Michel Piccoli as her friend is a minor exception, as his dry dialogue does spice up the film a bit. But for the most part, I could not care less about Séverine’s husband or Marcel, her most devoted customer, because I did not feel they put their all into it. I know detachment was cool and hip in Paris in the 60’s, but the rest of the cast seem more like things to throw dialogue at rather than actual characters themselves.

On a more positive note, Luis Buñuel is a genius. Let’s get that out of the way. He is one of the greatest directors of all time, he has paved the way for generations to come, and will always come to mind when the discussion of direction comes up. He moves with such slyness between day and night, daydream and reality, sanity and madness. This movie is no exception. He stalks with ease through Séverine’s uptight nightlife and her wild, sexy afternoons. If you are a fan of direction like me, watch the shots on this one. This is a true talent at work.

So I’ll just say that if you like sexy women, and if you like sexy French direction, you will love Belle De Jour. This is a very good film, though not on par I think with Luis Buñuel’s greatest works (go check out his filmography, pick out three movies, watch them, and tell me he’s not one of the best!) Go see it for the beautiful Catherine Deneuve alone. I give Belle De Jour 8 sexy ladies out of 10!

See you tomorrow, where we check out Babylon A.D.!