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France/Italy 1967
Directed by
Luis Bunuel
100 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Belle De Jour

Belle De Jour is an iconic film from the sexually permissive 60s and the first of a very productive run for the 67 year old director. It was a big hit on the art-house circuit,many critics regarded it as one of Bunuel's finest works, it winning the Best Film at Venice that year and going on to great commercial success. The latter was, I suspect, in a good measure due to its titillating subject matter (upper bourgeois housewife played by Catherine Deneuve exorcises her need to be sexually abused by working as a prostitute) for in actuality it does not afford much in the way of easy pleasures, either sexually or artistically, Bunuel's characteristic formalist materialism making for a very dispassionate telling of a story with what many would consider as highly passionate stakes (sado-masochism, infidelity and murder to name but a few).

Bunuel and his regular writing collaborator Jean-Claude Carriere took a 1929 novel by Joseph Kessel and turned it to their own purposes, introducing the surrealistic dream sequences, erotic or otherwise, into their typically anti-bourgeois preoccupations. Unfortunately the film's producers removed what they felt to be too scandalous scenes before submitting it to the censors but had they been included this may not have made a difference, other than to the film's length, for the film really needs to be seen in the context of Bunuel's oeuvre and his stylistic and thematic preoccupations than as a stan- alone work.

Pierre Clementi's Marcel, the street hoodlum for whom Séverine falls for in what is the oddly melodramatic, nouvelle vague aspect of the film, appears to be closely modelled on the character of Lacenaire from Carné's 1945 classic Les Enfants Du Paradis.




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