(Again seeing as though it's Ladies' Night feel free to play a bit of Kool & the Gang as you read this lovely review by Doccortex - evlkeith)
Catherine Deneuve is the titular Belle de Jour and she has a whole range of marital problems. At the top of the list is the fact that she keeps drifting off into a Mills and Boone fantasy world with whips and chains thrown in for good measure and the Velvet Underground’s ‘Venus in Furs’ playing in the background. Husband, Jean Sorel, although French, doesn’t look the most understanding of types.
Unlike most bored married people in Britain, Séverine doesn’t go to bingo, take up darts or go down to the allotments. Instead she takes up the unusual hobby of prostitution. But sneakily, only in the daytime, so she can be there to cook husband Pierre’s tea in the evening. This seems a tad extreme, but surprisingly, it all goes swimmingly for a while as Severine gets all the seedy action she so desires, but also gets paid into the bargain (a hell of a lot more than writing an obscure film blog I might add.) Obviously it can’t last and things start to get a little awkward in the second half of the film.
The film is all about Deneuve and Bunuel’s infatuation with her, (and often her feet). She is distant, aloof and it has to be said, wooden for most of the film. Only in the latter conflict stages does she come to life and show any signs of life, let alone passion. She is the epitome of French cool and I have no doubts it was the director’s intention to portray her in this ethereal trance state, rather than any slight on Deneuve’s acting. She’s iconic and beautiful, but is too pampered and stylised by Bunuel to be anywhere near likeable or attractive. Consequently, we have no sympathy for her demise and are left with tired apathy. And I had a little chuckle to myself when it all went pear shaped too.
It’s supposedly a classic, and to be fair it’s never less than enjoyable, but if it were made today it would be shown on the Movies for Men channel on Sky. And although that sounds a bit racy, I can assure you it isn’t. If odd, French melodramas are your thing, then this will be perfect, the rest of us may be more circumspect however.
If you like this you could also try:
Viridiana, That Obscure Object of Desire.