Movie Review: Belle de Jour

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Luis Bunuel’s Belle de Jour starring Catherine Deneuve is a complicated yet straightforward film about an incest survivor who turns to prostitution. Not only is this shown in flashbacks but in the nervousness and compulsion of Deneuve’s character Séverine aka "Belle de Jour". It’s a role that Deneuve played before in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion , so Bunuel brought her in to continue the stereotype. If you know the background to "Belle de Jour" its hard to take in this film. I should not have to apologize for Bunuel’s clumsiness, for the film has been regarded as an erotic thriller. Since many prostitutes have a background in incest however let’s drop the facade of the film being about a frigid housewife who is only able to open up to her husband after being coarsely handled by a variety of customers. Séverine is given the address to a house of prostitution run by Madame Anais (Genevieve Page) by a friend of her husband, a sophisticated slimeball named Henri(Michel Piccoli) that is interested in her. She looks her up and is taken under her wing, and at times the relationship borders on romantic. At one point Henri shows up at Madame Anais. Séverine pleads with him to not tell her husband Pierre.
The regulars to Madame Anais (in a script written by Bunuel) include a Chinese client dressed in a derby like Odd Job in Goldfinger , a corpulent and gruff businessman who likes to have fun and a man who likes to be whipped. Eventually a young man falls in love with Belle de Jour and demands all her time. He shows up in her home before her husband arrives and later shoots him on the street, or did he? Deneuve has dreams of being degraded and assaulted and perhaps this is one more dream.
Deneuve stays in character dividing her time between being a neurotic and fearful young woman and a sophisticated woman who goes along with the show, even seeming to enjoy it. But alas like so many films of this kind with a happy prostitute theme it is purely a fantasy. Beyond the staged dreams and flashbacks, which break up the linear order of the film, there is not much to Belle de Jour though Catherine Deneuve shows her ability and commands every scene she in.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan Stockholm SWEDEN

More Information:
Belle de Jour
France/Italy - 1967