2020 Blind Spot Series: Belle de Jour


What I knew going in: I had seen a few scenes from a documentary on IFC about sex in film.

Severine (Catherine Deneuve) has been married to Pierre (Jean Sorel) for one year, yet as much as she loves him she cannot be intimate with him. Instead she has violent fantasies and on a whim, takes a job in the afternoons working as a prostitute.

On paper, Belle de Jour could go so many different ways. What surprised me was how delicate this story was handled when it could've so easily descended into exploitation and titillation. I appreciated that, as I don't think I would've been able to watch otherwise.

I feel like there are not many characters like Severine in film. It's reveled early on why she has issues with intimacy. Her husband doesn't try to force her, but it's clear the world around her wants her to be a certain way, and taking this job in a brothel is her way of fighting against it.

I just wish we had a bit more insight to her thoughts. Deneuve plays her with a 1000 yard vacant stare and many scenes are left open to interpretation. The ending is quite cruel, though not directly to her. 

I enjoyed this over all, the pacing was great and I loved the costumes and production design, I just wish the script had a bit more substance.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I'm not asking for your real name. You think mine is really Anais?" - Madame Anais (Geneviève Page)

Comments

  1. I definitely enjoyed this film as it is one of Bunuel's more accessible films though I think Viridiana is his best film from what I've seen from him so far. There's aspects of the films that don't make sense but that's part of what Bunuel does is that plays up the idea of surrealism.

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    1. I've only seen this one of his so I have a lot of catching up to do.

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  2. I watched this directly after seeing Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion and Umbrellas of Cherbourg and realizing I had been under estimating her all these years. I'd always thought her lovely but most of what I'd seen previous to those two were her few American films (The April Fools, Hustle, The Hunger) which did her no favors as far as using her gifts properly.

    Her character and performance are fascinating, Severine's blankness is her wall of defense against the emptiness of her life and what she does to try and find something that will make her feel alive and Deneuve plays it just right. The rest of the film was interesting but without her as its center it wouldn't be half of what it is.

    I'm in and out on Bunuel, I really liked El bruto and really didn't like Tristana (also with Deneuve) but haven't seen enough of his films to form a definite opinion. I've been meaning to see That Obscure Object of Desire for decades!

    As for Catherine Deneuve her French films are by far her best, excepting Repulsion which came from Polanski's most fertile American period. Besides Umbrellas I'd recommend The Young Girls of Rochefort, The Last Metro and 8 Women though she also has many films with strong reputations that I haven't seen.

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    1. Beautifully stated! I'll look into those films you recommended.

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  3. I have SO many classic film blindspots, so I haven't seen this one either. I think Catherine Deneuve is absolutely stunning, I should give this a go at some point.

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  4. Wow, this sounds very interesting. I'd love to check it out sometime, as the premise is really interesting. Oh, and Catherine Deneuve is sexy as Hell.

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  5. It's been a while since I have seen this but it definitely stick with you. I remember struggling with how I felt about Severine. She had my sympathy and you're right, the movie handles her struggles delicately and with care. But like you I wish they would have dug deeper into her inner thoughts.

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    1. Yes, I'm glad I'm not the only one who landed there.

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