December 20, 2008 Seth Perkins

Belle de Jour

Belle de JourI was doing some research into surrealist directors and ended up putting some works of Luis Buñuel into my NetFlix queue.  The first one being Belle de Jour which won best film at Venice in 1967.


Belle de Jour exhibits many qualities which appear in the contemporary works of some of my favorite directors.  The film stars Catherine Deneuve as a seeminly innocent woman with a fear of intimacy whose curiosity pulls her toward a self-destructive foray into the “world’s oldest profession”.  This idea of curiousity as a character flaw harkens to many works of noir, espeically, in my mind, Lynch’s Blue Velvet, obviously many works of Hitchcock where the character knows he/she shouldn’t look, but they do anyway. In that noir tradition, the character than has to dig themself out of a situation they created.

The film delves into the imagination of Deneuve’s character, showing the audience what Deneuve imagines to see and hear. To do this, the film utilizes some unconventional, yet effective, means, including rapid cuts to a childhood where Buñuel puts context to his protaganist’s behavior.  He utilizes other effects including cuts in the soundtrack between reality and the imagination which lead to a visual jump into Belle de Jour’s daydreams.  The progression of the daydreams themselves eventually cause the audience to question ensuing scenes.  “Wait.  Is this another daydream?”

Overall, the film was enjoyable.  I do have to warn you that some scenes are definitely not for general consumption.  It is an art film and the audience has to be in the right mindset or else it could seriously offend.  Performances were consistent throughout.  The story was engaging.  As a more-or-less traditional (single language) American, French lends to the poetic/dreamlike nature of the piece.  If you are open to a piece of foreign filmart touching on a sensitive topic, it’s worth seeing.

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