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Towards a better understanding of Belle de jour...
pvenktesh200123 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Severine is a beautiful young lady belonging to the bourgeoisie society, married to a doctor, Pierre. Though she loves her husband, something stops her from going to bed with him. She is apparently troubled, and has erotic fantasies, with her husband always playing the bad guy - tormenting her. The director is very cunning in sprinkling some scenes from Severine's childhood which actually give a lot of clue regarding her troubled life. One such scene depicts her being abused by an elderly man (probably her father). This in my opinion is very revealing and makes our understanding of Severine's other actions/imaginations even better. She always considered herself impure, and was ashamed of letting her husband know that. This can be seen in one such sprinkler scenes where the girl Severine refuses to accept the holy offerings from the Father in the Church. And this scene is very aptly placed while Severine is found going up the stairs of the brothel to take up the job as a prostitute.

Having been abused by an elderly man in her childhood, Severine, justifiably doesn't enjoy an young man's company in the bed (her husband). And she has erotic fantasies about going to bed with elderly clients at the brothel....again taking a job at the brothel is a fantasy and NOT real. This is very evident from the very funny, illogical incidents that take place in the brothel.

Into her fantasies walks a young man and she had to please him on the bed at the brothel. While she lay on the bed, the young man notices a mark on her and queries her about it. When Severine says its just a birth mark (remember...this is analogous to the impurity she is carrying with her from her childhood), the young man initially rejects her (she thinks her husband would similarly reject her for her impurity) but finally gives in and enjoys her. Only then she realises that, the young man also bears a scar on his back, which he says is from a knife stab. She realises, everyone has a scar to be reconciled with in life. This gives her a great sense of relief and her attitude towards her husband slowly changes. In her fantasies, however, Severine sees a conflict between the young client and her husband, and that the young man kills her husband in a fit of rage, only to be killed in turn by the policeman. She ends the life of the young client in her fantasies. She confides in a family friend (who is actually shown as one more client at the brothel) and she is relieved that the husband knows the truth. This leads to a better understanding of her husband and a new relationship blossoms. Now, the husband, whom Severine thought was nothing but a crippled man, blind, and unyielding,she realises that she had in fact only imagined all that and puts an end to her fantasies, symbolised by the empty coach driven in the last scene.
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Great exercise in surrealism
ClassicAndCampFilmReviews9 February 2005
"Belle de Jour" is generally considered to be director Luis Bunuel's masterpiece; a surprisingly revealing and seemingly personal venture into the world of eroticism and its deviances. It's a truly surrealistic exercise in ambiguity, fantasy, and reality. The line that separates them is blurred so much that the famously mysterious ending has had critics arguing for decades over its meaning.

The fantasy sequences are usually signalled by the sound of carriage bells, but by the end of the film the viewer is no longer able to differentiate between what is another one of Severine's fantasies and what is reality. Even Bunuel admitted to not knowing himself. He said that "by the end, the real and imaginary fuse; for me they form the same thing." The gorgeous Catherine Deneuve, resplendent in her icy prime, portrays Severine Sevigny, the middle-class wife of Pierre, a doctor. She is frigid, virginal, yet seemingly happy enough in her bourgeoisie life and its trappings. However, upon hearing about a local clandestine brothel from a friend, she pays a visit to the madame, and becomes a prostitute, going by the name of "Belle de Jour", as she can only work in the afternoons. She apparently fully realizes and enjoys her sexuality, despite her guilty conscience, exclaiming that she "can't help it". She certainly doesn't need the money. She's bored with her life and her marriage, needing a "firm hand" to lead her; a need which the madame, Anais, who is obviously attracted to her, almost immediately recognizes. Her sweet and conventional husband is unaware, treating her much like a child, and the audience cannot help but believe that even if he knew of her true nature, he would not understand or empathize. She keeps her two worlds neatly separate until a patron of hers (whom she herself enjoys) becomes obsessed with her, and all is threatened.

That Alfred Hithcock in particular admired this film comes as no surprise to me; Deneuve would have been the perfect Hitchcock heroine: an icy blonde who becomes "a whore in the bedroom", as Hitchock was fond of saying he preferred in his leading ladies. But this remark is not meant to simplify the story, its telling, or Deneuve's remarkable performance, which is what truly draws the viewer into the film.

"Belle de Jour" was Bunuel's first foray into the use of color, and he employed it to great effect. From the fall colors displayed in the landscape scenes, to the subtle shades in Deneuve's clothing, the contrasts are set. While the world around her explodes in glorious hues, Deneuve's character is defined by her couture, if staid, wardrobe of tan, black, and white.

"Belle de Jour" was unreleased for many years due to copyright problems, but finally re-released in 1995 through the efforts of director Martin Scorcese, and released on DVD in 2003. I've watched it twice in the past week and am still at a loss to describe it very well; suffice to say that I am in awe. It's an amazingly erotic film without any explicitness, and one that I expect hasn't lost any of its effect over the years. As the subject matter is handled very tactfully and without any actual sex scenes; a great deal is left to the viewer's imagination - which only serves the heighten the mysteries inherent at every turn in the film. The viewer is however drawn into the sense of feeling to be a voyeur into Severine's secret life; the careful choreography of scenes and camera angles contribute to the uncomfortable sense of intrusion by us, the viewers.

There are many sub-stories and small mysteries in the film; for instance one of the most widely debated upon by critics is the mystery of "what is in the Asian client's little box?" that he presents first to one prostitute, who quickly refuses, then to Severine, who tentatively agrees. All the audience know is that it's something with a insect-like noise, and when the client leaves, Severine is sprawled face-down upon the bed, the sheets thrown about, and obviously pleased with whatever took place in the interim.

"Belle de Jour" was awarded the Golden Lion at the 1967 Venice Film Festival, as well as the award for Best Foreign Film in 1968 from the New York Film Critics Circle.

Interesting side notes: Bunuel himself had a shoe fetish, which helps explain the numerous shots of Deneuve's beautifully clad feet throughout the film, and the fact that every time she goes shopping, she buys shoes. He also appears in the film in a cameo as a cafe patron, and in another scene his hands are shown loading a gun.
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Unique, Strange, and Memorable
gftbiloxi6 May 2005
The premise of BELLE DU JOUR is well known. A young, beautiful, and slightly frigid doctor's wife (Catherine Deneuve) secretly harbors fantasies of being dominated, humiliated, and abused by her husband (Jean Sorel.) When these fantasies can no longer be denied, she becomes a prostitute under the sponsorship of a possibly lesbian madam (Geneviève Page), working during the afternoons while her husband is at his own work. Her sexuality is awakened by the sometimes brutish clients, who soon discover that "she likes it rough," and she is ultimately caught up a relationship with a truly dangerous client (Pierre Clémenti) whose possessiveness threatens to destroy both her and her husband.

Throughout the film Deneuve slips in and out of memory and fantasy, sometimes recalling herself as a possibly molested child, sometimes imagining herself as the victim in a series of sexual assault fantasies. Director Bunuel, whose masterpiece this is, so blurs the line between memory, reality, and fantasy that by the film's conclusion one cannot be sure if some, most, or everything about the film has been Deneuve's fantasy.

Although it includes a number of impressive performances (particularly by Geneviève Page, her girls, and their clients), BELLE is essentially Deneuve's film from start to finish, and she gives an astonishing performance that cannot be easily described. Like the film itself, it is a balancing act between fantasy and a plausible reality that may actually be nothing of the kind. Bunuel presents both her and the film as a whole in an almost clinical manner, and is less interested in gaining our sympathy for the character than in presenting her as an object for intellectual observation.

Ultimately, BELLE DU JOUR seems to be about a lot of things, some of them obvious and some of them extremely subtle. And yet, given the way in which it undercuts its realities by blurring them with fantasy, it is also entirely possible that the film is not actually "about" anything except itself. Individuals who insist on clear-cut meanings and neatly wrapped conclusions will probably loathe it--but those prepared to accept the film on its own terms will find it a fascinating experience. Recommended.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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A unique mystery box
Chris_Docker29 December 2006
Séverine (Catherine Deneuve) is a bored, affluent housewife. We meet her first when she is forced to dismount from a carriage. Her husband Pierre ties her to a tree, whips her, then leaves her to be raped by the two carriage drivers.

Séverine is prone to fantasies. She is in a conventional marriage. Pierre is a handsome young surgeon. They sleep in separate beds. An older friend, Henri, keeps hitting on her, but she tells him to keep his compliments for himself. He is attracted by her blonde perfection, her virtue and her icy disdain.

Taking fantasy a stage further, Séverine gets a daytime job at a high class brothel. At first she is prudish and wants to pick her clients. Then she is shown 'a firm hand' - which the masochistic side of her nature relishes.

Re-released almost forty years after its original cinema exhibition, Belle de Jour still has the power to shock. Not through explicit nudity (it is a highly erotic work without being titillating) but by the shocking images, and the superb performances that contrast the aloofness of the bourgeoisie to the practicality of sex, of elegance to depravity. Scenes of Séverine having mud thrown at her stick in the mind no less than the tentativeness with which she approaches the brothel for the first time, dressed in black, and ready to take flight at any moment. Couture by Yves Saint Laurent and lush photography drown us in luxurious chic. The stylish settings arouse our aesthetic senses, and the languorous pacing and emotional complexity keep us trying to figure it all out long before we realise just how difficult that is going to be.

Analysing it in Freudian or purely sexual terms is less than satisfying. The characters are convincing - the posh conservative elite, the matter-of-fact but certainly not coarse madame, the pervs who visit the brothel, and the psychologically conflicted Séverine through them all. It is hardly a plea for sexual liberation - the men, even one that Séverine takes a fancy to, are pretty lowlife. Their strange fantasy requirements mete out the most fascinating tableau of perversions but even more fascinating is what we don't see: such as what is in the box brought by the Chinaman. We are forced to identify with Séverine - she is the most normal character - and yet the most convincing way to approach the film is one suggested by Buñuel himself, as a parable attacking the decadence of the bourgeoisie.

On a more elevated level, it is a forceful artistic statement that viewers addicted to linear storytelling may find hard to accept. It seems to anticipate Eyes Wide Shut in its treatment of hidden sexuality, but cinematically it is more linked to the surreal Mulholland Drive. Buñuel's friend from University and at one point collaborator, Salvador Dali, could be similarly perplexing when it came to alternate realities. He said, "People love mystery, and that is why they love my paintings." The mind is drawn to interpret a piece of art in a specific concrete way, but the artist may wish to express a concept that transcends specific examples. In Belle de Jour, Buñuel claims that there are not two endings, just one ambiguous ending. When you have finished watching the film it is not hard to decide which scenes are reality and which are fantasy, but when you run it through your mind again it is equally possible to make alterations. Do we want to know what is in the box, or do we love the mystery?

The name Belle de Jour can be read as a pun on 'lady of the night', since Séverine only worked in the day; everything becomes plain. This is maybe why it becomes her as her name at the brothel. But enter Séverine's feverish imagination and you might see something else.
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Wishing, Wanting And Longing
alainbenoix6 March 2007
Sèverine is perfect, she's Catherine Deneuve. She consciously inhabits her subconscious and the comings and goings are tinted with pristine, erotic decadence. Her perfection includes outrage without rage, panic without fear. Having or not having is the question she never asks. Her husband Pierre, the exquisite Jean Sorel, is like one of her garments. There, stunning, understated, reliable, existing without existing. Marcel, in the other hand, the riveting Pierre Clementi, seems determined to provoke. Provoke what? Where is that need creeping from? I love to meander through "Belle de Jour" allowing Luis Bunuel to have his fun. He deserves it. His puzzle is just that, a puzzle and his genius, challenge us to find the non existent pieces. The pieces are ours coming from our own wishes, wantings and longings.
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A Masterful Collaboration
bix17118 September 2002
Catherine Deneuve is perfectly cast as an upper-class Parisian housewife who decides to spend her afternoons working in a brothel in Luis Bunuel's subversive masterpiece which proves that intimation can be just as effective as exploitation. Just about everything here--especially the shocking conclusion--is open to interpretation, from impulse to rationalization, and it's to Bunuel's genius that he is able to stand back, letting his audience fill in the gaps in their imagination and, if necessary, implicate themselves. And in Deneuve, Bunuel has found a brilliant blank canvas for the audience to express themselves upon; never fully clear on her motivations (though some tantalizing flashbacks offer hints), she alternates between classic French coldness and classic French passion and though she's intentionally unreachable, she's always fully aware of how to manipulate the spell she's cast over you. A great example of a master of cinema in deep collaboration with a master actress--their exploration of the female psyche runs the gamut of every possible emotion while never being crass or lowering themselves to merely reducing and simplifying.
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The gap between fantasy and reality in female desire…
Nazi_Fighter_David25 May 2008
Deneuve plays Séverine Serizy, a bored middle-class woman who never slept with her handsome husband Pierre (Jean Sorel). She eventually adopts a double life on weekday afternoons as a hooker… Here she explores the depths of her desires with her amazing sexual inhibitions… Although the film resolves around her goings-on at a high-class brothel, real nudity and sex are never shown…

"Belle de Jour" may seem one of the most mysterious, poetic, and provoking films ever made… Producing a body of work unparalleled in its wealth of meaning and its ability to surprise and shock, Buñuel leads us into a new world arousing wonder and astonishment, depravity and pleasure, weird and entertaining…
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The Ice Queen, Revealed and Ravished
nycritic20 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
One of the great surrealist dramas and a staple of cerebral erotica. Luis Bunuel, a director who has been considered the front-runner of Surrealism in cinema, has created a movie that unfolds like a Moebius strip -- beginning at the end, ending at the beginning, with no conclusion to its question. Who is Severine? The question is asked in several key moments throughout the story, but never answered in a satisfactory manner. All that can be done is to sit back and watch the story of how Severine gives in to her own desires and inner dreams and gets lost along the way....

Erotica is one of the least understood of literary genres because of the exploitative nature associated with it. Very few people today can write erotica in a way that doesn't, in one way or another, fall into the traps of having to show more than imply and therefore render its effect a moot point. Writers Anais Nin and Pauline Reage were keen in making their worlds places where despite some explicit passages, sensuality was felt through a looking glass filter rather than slapped across the face. When seen under a surrealist vein, erotica becomes less sexual, more cerebral, and completely revelatory.

Severine, like Sabina in Anais Nin's poetic novella of erotica "A Spy in the House of Love," is dissatisfied with her life. Like Sabina's husband Alan, Pierre is completely unaware of who he's married to and is all business and travel. Both women, meanwhile, dream of escape, of male dominance asserting their own freedom, and will jeopardize their security. Both characters will undergo complete changes in their personality, under the guise of role-play, never allowing themselves to become attached to other men even when they may want to possess them completely, as Marcel does when Severine becomes inaccessible to him.

Cinematically BELLE DE JOUR is perfect (even when this term sounds cliché). Severine's story is a full circle: she's seen in black, disguise, walking into Madame Anais' town-home; she emerges near the end wearing the same outfit, a cold socialite. (It's an interesting coincidence that Anais is the ringleader who controls Severine's dreamy incursions into sex, and this story bears a strong relation to Anais Nin's erotic writings, themselves incursions into surrealistic sensual dreams.) Madame Anais seduces her in the beginning with a kiss; Severine "severs" ties with Anais through a kiss. Also, Severine is framed in an isolated way, at the fringes of the action, in two scenes involving a male client at Anais' town-home -- both times this only makes her more visible, naked, vulnerable. In both she is taken by force, though the second encounter initiates those events that break the third wall and literally walk into her Architectural Digest home.

BELLE DE JOUR is extremely, undeniably erotic. The opening sequence per se looks rather mundane -- Severine is subjected to a scene of debasement while her husband Pierre looks on -- but as the story progresses, it will take on a different connotation and from here on, unfold. Because there is no transition from this sequence to the next where Severine and Pierre are in their placid, empty bedroom, it sort of leaves the viewer hanging and wondering just what has taken place, or if anything has happened at all. Of course, Severine's own psyche takes center stage more assertively as she herself gets a stronger footing in her new situation, so these shifts become clearer as the movie goes deeper into her story.

Sounds also play an important part of Severine's story: the jingling of bells signal the awakening of an erotic episode. Footmen enter the stage and bookend the story, cowbells become the appearance of bulls bearing names referring to "expiation", Severine is sodomized by a "bull-like" Asian man bearing a box that hums softly (and whatever is inside has to be clearly repugnant when another escort refuses to go to bed with the client).

Bunuel, of course, wants show the hypocrisy behind the complacency of the upper class, and what better way to do so than via guilt. Severine, for example, can't stand Henri, her girlfriend's boyfriend, but through his suggestion she enters this strange world of hidden sexuality. We see her on two occasions as a little girl, in two moments of humiliation through her own guilt. She desires Henri while she also hates him -- a guilty pleasure. Henri discovers her secret and exposes her for what she is -- a common slut. If anything, even when he seems the villain of the piece, Henri can be related to Everyman longing for the ideal woman. Once he finds that she's really not that mysterious after all, he dumps her because she's lost her abstraction.

It's this event -- ripping Severine off from her pedestal -- that finally "severs" her secure world even when she's apparently abandoned her profession. Again, much like Sabina in "Spy..." Severine is doomed now to assume a different role while still longing for her more carnal life, and with the faint ringing of those ghostly bells coming not long after Pierre reacts, weeping, to this "revelation", and possibly even dies (his twisted hand is an indication) it makes me wonder if their appearance is only the beginning of her punishment and another way the story becomes a complete cycle of erotic evolution that will take the viewer back to the Bois du Bologne and that coach ride.
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Different every time
m_a_singer28 December 2003
My other favorite Bunuel films, _The Exterminating Angel_ and _The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie_, are in some ways social satires surrealistically told. _Belle de Jour_, however, is much more of a purely surreal work, which is appropriate since it is about two of the most surreal of subjects: power, and sex. Don't watch it expecting psychedelic camera tricks and Freudian dream sequences - Bunuel is much too controlled for trickery, and much too tricky to allow you to calmly map out what is real and what is not. And don't expect to know exactly what has happened at the end or even to remember the film clearly later. Each time I see it again I discovered that that the film has somehow reassembled itself in my memory, so each viewing is fresh and surprising. Even if you don't give a tinker's melted watch about surrealism, and don't care to puzzle out reality from fantasy, there's still much to like here: frequent droll humor, a little bit of titillation, and a good performance from an incredibly beautiful young Catherine Deneuve. Watch it with someone you love.
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Buñuel Never Disappoints
Eumenides_026 March 2005
'Belle de Jour' is Buñuel at his weirdest: the Spanish master builds this movie on the relationship between the fantasy of conscious and unconscious dreams and reality. The dreamer is the beautiful Séverine (the magnificent Catherine Deneuve) a petite bourgeois woman trapped in a dull marriage which leads her to strive for something else, first in fantasy, and then in outright real life. Séverine's dreams are vividly sexual: the opening scene marks the tone of the movie and the character as she dreams with being raped, spanked and humiliated while her angered husband watches. Throughout the rest of the movie, Séverine will be trying to make these fantasies come true in a brothel she starts working at… or is she? This is what's fun in Buñuel's movie: it's impossible to tell fiction from fact.

Séverine is the heart and soul of 'Belle de Jour:' her journey through her own sexuality is riveting; she starts with as a repressed woman who's having marital problems, probably due to sex. As a way to get out of her dull life she starts working at a brothel during daytime, hence her nickname 'beautiful by day.' Some of the episodes at the brothel are funny: her first attempt at playing a dominatrix is an embarrassing experience for the poor Séverine who's not accustomed to the relationship between dominator/dominated; her experience with a creepy Asian client is highly enigmatic, mainly because of the famous and mysterious box the client brings… whatever it is, it seems to bring Séverine a lot of pleasure. Her she participates in a role-playing situation with a rich enigmatic man who asks her to perform a dead woman in a bizarre ritual/funeral scene… the level of insinuations this scene creates in one's mind is outstanding! Meanwhile, amidst all the pleasure, Séverine is haunted with a sense of guilt and shame as she keeps imagining herself being punished by her husband and his best friend. She ponders leaving the brothel until a new client, arrives and she's immediately attracted to him.

Pierre Cleménti was an outstanding revelation: although I had unknowingly seen him once before in Bertolucci's 'The Comformist' as the homosexual driver Lino, I certainly noticed him in this movie: he's a fascinating combination of style and substance with his amazing performance, playing the sophisticated, leather-wearing, cane-wielding, gold-toothed young criminal, Marcel, meeting Séverine when celebrating a successful bank heist. His obsession for her grows to fantastic proportions culminating in the unexpected tragedy of the third act. The end of the movie is perhaps the weirdest part of the narrative, the one where all interpretations become valid; it's also a great send-up on happy endings, and a fine conclusion to a thriller if this movie were a thriller… Buñuel is just genius!

"Belle de Jour" is a funny, tragic, and ultimately unique movie. I had the opportunity to watch it at a theatre room last year and obviously I felt the pleasure of seeing this bizarre masterpiece as all movies should be seen: on the big screen. I'll certainly feel the lack when I have to watch it on TV one day.
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One of Bunuel's more well-known works; an interesting morality story with Deneuve
Quinoa198419 December 2003
Luis Bunuel, notorious for his use of simple, striking, yet un-cannily affecting surrealism in movies, keeps it down to a lower (yet still imaginative) key for Belle Du Jour. This works though because un-like a film like Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie where surrealism was like another character amidst the other character's dreams and nightmares, this one only keeps in surrealism for the sake of the lead character's inner demons poking up through the every-day malaise. This lead, Severine, is played in one of Catherine Deneuve's key career performances, that finds that two-sided-ness she feels while married to her husband Pierre.

She loves him, but there's something that she's not getting out of the marriage that's leaving her empty, aimless, and her fantasies- however in the realm of (dark) fantasy- go to show she needs to do something during the day. She then finds out about a high-class brothel with only a couple of workers already employed. At first reluctant, she gives in to her temptations, serving the odder types of Paris looking for a good time, with one of them, Marcel (Pierre Clementi) falling head over heels for her.

What seemed most intriguing about the film was how Bunuel dealt with the themes- the two crucial ones being morality and sexuality. His imagery is direct, maybe too direct, but it gets its points across with a realism that is alluring and far & away (almost like a satire of such a life). She can't stop what she's started, and she doesn't really know how to end it unless she gets caught.

Then with the sexuality, it's never over-emphasized (i.e. no nudity, outside of a quick couple of shots of nudity), and no one is shown having sex on screen. What comes out is the emotional tally of Severine, the other girls, and the supporting characters that come in and out of the brothel. It may seem dated at moments, and the observatory notes go to making the film seem a tad longer than it is. But never-the-less, Belle de Jour is a worthwhile, memorable effort of the 1960's cinema.

And, at many times, it's quite funny. More than that, a laugh riot.
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To Author: SanTropez_Couch who did not understand Luis Buñuel's Belle De Jour
silverfernvideo16 November 2005
To Author: SanTropez_Couch who did not understand Luis Buñuel's Belle De Jour

I have just read your review on Belle De Jour. I do not wish to bash it, I just want you to become aware of a few things since you obviously share an enthusiasm in film. Hopefully you will be able to understand Luis Buñuel a little better. First of all you wrote "It's not a masterwork," but this film is a masterwork. Why else would Martin Scorsese present it? You talked about being puzzled by the films weaving in and out of dream sequences, and that perhaps David Lynch would be able to do a more masterful job. You have to understand that Buñuel does this intentionally. He is a man who tries not to have a lot of logic in the story line of his movies. (Check out Phantom of Liberty) However there is a lot of symbolism that you missed in the film. It takes reading and maturity to find out what Buñuel is all about. The film is unclear weather the ending is a reality or fantasy. Even Buñuel himself said he did not know. If you wanted to make this film make sense it would kill what is great about it. Most people do not understand Buñuel that will and criticize him for doing something spectacular outside of the logical Hollywood system which people are use to. You also wrote "The film isn't very engaging visually." I have to disagree again. Look at the way Buñuel shots only Catherine Deneueve's feet in one of the earlier scenes before she enters the brothel. This is genius. Without showing concern on her face or through dialogue for that matter, he shows us what she is feeling through the actions of her walking. He does this again later in the film. Also you have to look Catherine Deneueve's apartment in this film, a very bourgeoisie like style which Buñuel likes to criticize. You can see how empty Catherine Deneueve's marriage to Marcel is. You really need to read up on Buñuel before you can criticize him like this. I'm not meaning to be rude either. I had no idea what was going on when I first watched this film. You should watch his first film ever made Un chien andalou. He made the movie have no logical sense at all.

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Erotic Daydream Entwined with Reality
claudio_carvalho16 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
In Paris, the bored and frigid upper-class housewife Séverine Serizy (Catherine Deneuve) is married with the handsome doctor Pierre Serizy (Jean Sorel), and she fantasizes kink sex with strangers every now and then. Pierre's friend Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli) and his wife Renee (Macha Méril) are frequently meeting Pierre and Séverine and after having lunch together, Renee tells to Séverine that their acquaintance Henriette is working in a whorehouse and Husson gives the address of a high-class brothel in Paris. Séverine visits Madam Anais (Geneviève Page) in her brothel and is hired to work from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM with the nickname "Belle de Jour". The young client Marcel (Pierre Clémenti) has a crush on Séverine and becomes her prime client. However, when Husson discovers that Séverine is working in the whorehouse, she decides to quit the job. But Marcel does not intend to loose her.

Today I have watched "Belle de Jour" maybe for the fifth or sixth time, now on DVD, and I still am not sure about what are Séverine's erotic daydreams and reality. My point of view is that the whole brothel thing is a fantasy of this repressed woman in her empty afternoons. Her erotic dream, entwined with her boring reality, ends with her husband paralyzed, Marcel dead and Husson telling the truth to Pierre. Now that her fantasy is complete, she begins another dream with the stagecoach in the park in the last scene. This is another fascinating film of the great Luis Buñuel, one of my favorite directors ever, and the beauty of Catherine Deneuve is mesmerizing. Last time I had seen this film was on 22 October 2000, on VHS. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "A Bela da Tarde" ("The Gorgeous of the Afternoon")
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The last two minutes of this film change everything....
KFL26 October 2000
Warning: Spoilers
In a few recent movies, the ending changes the entire meaning of what we have seen up to that point. (Naming names would clue viewers in to the twist ending, and largely give it away.) Belle de Jour, I believe, is another such movie, though it is apparently not regarded as such.

***Spoilers Ahead***

Severine (the Catherine Deneuve character) has daydreams about being mistreated and even sexually abused. The interspersing of these dream-sequences is Bunuel's way of warning us that what comes ahead may be real life, or may be all in Severine's head.

With that in mind...the final two minutes of this movie need to be examined very carefully. Her husband is no longer crippled; indeed, he smiles and enjoys a glass of wine with her, and the impression is that there has been no rift at all between them. And she sees an empty horse-drawn carriage...a carriage that appeared in an earlier dream-sequence. What does it mean?

I think it can only mean that Severine never actually went to work for Madame Anais. You will recall that she was about to knock on her door, that first day, lost her nerve, and went to sit on a bench in a park. It was at that point that her daydreams commenced; and from that day onward, she worked as a high-priced call girl only in her mind. Her daydream as "Belle de Jour" continued until it reached a kind of crisis point--the shooting of her husband--and this induced a kind of catharsis. One wants to think that she left her dreamworld for good, though this must be left to conjecture. ...if the above is correct, then Bunuel has pulled off a complete table-turning every bit as audacious as the celebrated twist endings of TUS (1995) and TSS (1999) (those recent films I mentioned above). More so, perhaps, since many people don't understand how the tenor of the entire film has changed even as the final credits are rolling....
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The indiscreet life of a bored housewife.
senortuffy26 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Catherine Deneuve plays an emotionally detached woman in this 1967 film by Luis Buñuel. She has no physical relationship with her husband, a wealthy young doctor in Paris, so eventually finds pleasure in working as a prostitute in the afternoons at a chic house downtown.

There are several interpretations to Buñuel's film. I saw it as a commentary on modern bourgeois life. Here we have an elegantly attractive woman who needs to be loved yet cannot show love herself. She cannot break the bonds that define her life and surrender herself to emotion, so she seeks pleasure through anonymous sex. Perhaps it's Buñuel commentating on the estrangement of modern life, particularly our sexual mores.

The ending has puzzled many, including myself. There's a scene at the beginning of the film where Deneuve fantasizes about going on a carriage ride with her husband and being whipped and raped by his servants. Perhaps the final scene of the carriage returning empty is Buñuel's way of saying her fantasies have ended.

But was the experience at the brothel a dream too or is she satisfied now that her husband is paralyzed, the result of a jealous customer's rage? Is she cured of her detachment or have circumstances simply resolved her emotional dilemma?

Catherine Deneuve is one of the world's great beauties, and she is deliciously so in this film, but she also gives a terrific performance here. She hides her emotions and leaves several interpretations to her character which is what Buñuel obviously wanted from her.

An excellent film from one of the greatest directors of cinema ever.
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Buñuel's masterpiece filled with sadomasochism , surrealism and colorful as well as absurd images
ma-cortes26 April 2014
This is a typical Buñuel film , as there is a lot of symbolism and surrealism , including mockery or wholesale review upon sexual behaviors . Luis Bunuel's Masterpiece of Erotica in which deals with a frigid young housewife , a virginal newlywed named Severine (Catherine Deneuve) married to a prestigious surgeon called Pierre (Jean Sorel) . She fantasizes about masochistic scenes with male people . Severine and Pierre's friend Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli) and his spouse Renee (Macha Meril) are usually having lunch together , then , Renee tells Séverine that their acquaintance Henriette is working in a brothel . Severine get the address of a high-class whorehouse in Paris and visits Madam Anais , she then decides to spend her midweek afternoons as a prostitute unbeknownst to her patient husband . As Severine works at her obsessive profession only from two to five .

Surrealism and sour portrait upon higher classes, masochism , kinky sex , prostitution and sexual rites by the Spanish maestro of surrealism , the great Luis Buñuel . In most subtitled versions of the film, an italicized font is used to help the audience spot Séverine's fantasies from reality . According to Luis Buñuel scholar Julie Jones, Buñuel once said that he himself didn't know what the end exactly means . Luis Buñuel was given a strict Jesuit education which sowed the seeds of his obsession with both subversive behavior and religion , issues well shown in a lot of films and that would preoccupy Buñuel for the rest of his career . Interesting and thought-provoking screenplay from the same Luis Buñuel and Jean Claude Carriere , Buñuel's usual screenwriter based on the novel by Joseph Kessel ,; they pull of a straight-faced treatment of shocking subject matter . After returning his native country, Spain, by making ¨Viridiana¨ this film was prohibited on the grounds of blasphemy as well as ¨The milky way¨ or Via Lactea , both of them were strongly prohibited by Spanish censorship . ¨Belle De Jour¨ is packed with surreal moments , criticism , absurd situations , masochism ; furthermore Buñuel satirizes and he carries out outright attacks to aristocracy , sadism and pro-sexual freedom . ¨Belle De Jour" is a day lily in French, a flower that blooms only by day, as Severine is available only during the afternoons. "Belle De Jour" is also a sort of pun, as it reminds us of "belle de nuit", an euphemism for prostitute . Deneuve's finest most enigmatic acting . Catherine Deneuve's famous buckled shoes were designed by Roger Vivier and her glamorous gowns by Ives Saint Laurent . Pretty good support cast gives fine acting ; it is mostly formed by nice French actors such as Michel Piccoli as Henri Husson , Geneviève Page as Madame Anais , Pierre Clémenti s Marcel , Françoise Fabian as Charlotte , Macha Méril as Renee and special mention to Spanish Francisco Rabal who played various Buñuel films such as Nazarin and Viridiana . In addition , Luis Buñuel cameo : Sitting in the outdoor café when the Duke gets off his carriage.

Thid wry and disturbing motion picture was compellingly directed by Luis Buñuel who was voted the 14th Greatest Director of all time . This Buñuel's strange film belongs to his French second period ; in fact , it's plenty of known French actors . As Buñuel subsequently emigrated from Mexico to France where filmed other excellent movies . After moving to Paris , at the beginning Buñuel did a variety of film-related odd jobs , including working as an assistant to director Jean Epstein . With financial help from his mother and creative assistance from Dalí, he made his first film , this 17-minute "Un Chien Andalou" (1929), and immediately catapulted himself into film history thanks to its disturbing images and surrealist plot . The following year , sponsored by wealthy art patrons, he made his first picture , the scabrous witty and violent "Age of Gold" (1930), which mercilessly attacked the church and the middle classes, themes that would preoccupy Buñuel for the rest of his career . That career, though, seemed almost over by the mid-1930s, as he found work increasingly hard to come by and after the Spanish Civil War , where he made ¨Las Hurdes¨ , as Luis emigrated to the US where he worked for the Museum of Modern Art and as a film dubber for Warner Bros . He subsequently went on his Mexican period he teamed up with producer Óscar Dancigers and after a couple of unmemorable efforts shot back to international attention with the lacerating study of Mexican street urchins in ¨Los Olvidados¨ (1950), winning him the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival. But despite this new-found acclaim, Buñuel spent much of the next decade working on a variety of ultra-low-budget films, few of which made much impact outside Spanish-speaking countries , though many of them are well worth seeking out . As he went on filming "The Great Madcap" , ¨The brute¨, "Wuthering Heights", ¨El¨ , "The Criminal Life of Archibaldo De la Cruz" , ¨Robinson Crusoe¨ , ¨Death in the garden¨ and many others . And finally his French-Spanish period in collaboration with producer Serge Silberman and writer Jean-Claude Carrière with notorious as well as polemic films such as ¨Viridiana¨ , Tristana¨ , ¨The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" , this ¨Belle De Jou¨ and his last picture , "That Obscure Object of Desire" . .
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Genuinely haunting Bunuel classic.
Infofreak21 January 2002
'Belle De Jour' is a movie which requires multiple viewing to fully appreciate. We live in an era of explicit sex and violence in movies are commonplace, and where we are very rarely required to think. 'Belle De Jour' is not like this. What you don't see is more important than what you do. It is a movie which needs a little effort on the viewers part. Persevere, you will be rewarded.

The basic plot is easy to understand. Severine (Catherine Deneuve in a superbly understated performance) is a beautiful, sexually repressed young bride. Her husband Pierre (Jean Sorel) adores her, but their marriage remains chaste. Severine suffers from dreams and hallucinations of debasement. She eventually is employed in a brothel during the day under a pseudonym, while continuing to live a bourgeois life with her unsuspecting husband. I won't reveal what happens after that.

That is the bare bones of the story, but it gives you no idea of HOW Bunuel tells it, which is what makes 'Belle De Jour' such a gem. I think this movie is one of the landmarks of 1960s cinema, and has aged wonderfully. In fact it gets better and better as most contemporary movies about sex get poorer and poorer. A movie that will haunt you. Superb!
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Phony Pointless Perversions
disinterested_spectator6 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A woman is frigid and won't have sex with her husband, probably because she was molested as a child. So she goes to a psychiatrist to get help, right? Wrong! She decides to go to work in a whorehouse, where turning a few tricks in the afternoon is just the therapy she needs, especially since all her customers are kinky and twisted. Of course, their perversions are only artificial movie perversions, not the sort of thing a prostitute would be likely to encounter on a daily basis in real life.

Her husband still doesn't get any sex, though, because that just is not the way she loves him. One of her jealous customers shoots her husband anyway, leaving him mute, blind, crippled, and incapable of having sex. Now she has the perfect husband. But not for long. A friend of the family decides her husband will feel as though he is a burden on his virtuous wife, so he tells him that she is a prostitute. That way he won't feel so guilty.

But wait. It was all just a dream. Fooled you.
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What a load of crap!
rstephenbrown-28 July 2006
"... in which the brilliant Buñuel shows the dark and singular fusion between the eroticism and the bourgeoisie society, recurrent subjects in his acclaimed filmography, framed in a surrealist context and the exploration of deep desires but of the human being."

OK, it's surreal. But why does Buñuel's surrealism end up so boring? After about an hour, the only way I could finish watching this pile of pretentious crap was at 4X speed. And erotic? Maybe the French find it intellectually "erotique," but it certainly doesn't translate well. I want a film that speaks to my heart and to my head, but "Belle du Jour" was visually uninteresting, aurally flat, dramatically empty, and intellectually vapid. Marxist film-making (or film criticism!) is about as successful as Marxist government: it sounds so much better on paper than it plays out in reality. Ennui may or may not be a good subject for surreal treatment, but this movie doesn't show us anything about the "deep desires of the human being."
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Intentionally ambiguous Buñuel drama proves to have a lot more style than substance
Turfseer20 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
After reading countless reviews on the internet about 'Belle de Jour', I'm still not sure what famed surrealistic director Luis Buñuel was trying to say. And if you asked Buñuel what the meaning of the film was, he probably would have told you 'it is, what you want it to be'. I have come to conclude that in making a film such as 'Belle de Jour', Buñuel is more interested in playing the provocateur than exploring any of the moral issues raised by the film's often cryptic narrative.

Buñuel as provocateur is evident in the film's opening sequence. In a matter of a few moments, an idyllic carriage-ride (seemingly a scene influenced by a 19th century romantic novel) morphs into a nightmare sequence of domestic depravity as Buñuel's protagonist, Séverine (Catherine Deneuve) is viciously whipped by the menservants of her husband, Pierre. But in a blink of an eye, Buñuel has the last laugh (or should I say the first laugh?) when we see that the assault on Séverine is a figment of her imagination. In reality, she is married to Pierre who is a respectable Parisian surgeon in the present day of 1967.

But just as soon as we're introduced to this new 'idyllic' situation, Buñuel is committed to shocking us again. Séverine and Pierre's situation is anything but idyllic as Séverine is plagued by nightmares of being sexually abused as a child and resorts to fantasies of sadomasochistic pleasure. As a result, they perversely sleep in separate beds and Pierre patiently tries to understand why his wife won't engage in any sexual relations.

In reality, nothing is normal for Séverine--she must endure Husson, the boyfriend of the couple's friend, Renée, who has no guilt feelings about hitting on her and freely admits that he's a frequent visitor to a high-class whorehouse. This is how Séverine finds out about Madame Anaïs' establishment, which she at first hesitantly applies for a job at, as a high-class call girl.

While her motive for taking a job as a prostitute may have had to do with her unfortunate sexual experiences as a child, Buñuel is more interested in contrasting Séverine's life as an unhappy, chaste housewife with her newfound enjoyment as aggressive sexual neophyte. None of this is shown explicitly and Buñuel takes great pleasure in emphasizing Séverine's lack of guilt as she plies her trade amongst a group of decidedly tawdry clients. The clients include a vulgar businessmen who virtually rapes her and a man who resembles 'Odd Job' from the film 'Goldfinger', who leaves her on the bed smiling with her pants pulled down (implying that she's taken pleasure in indulging in anal sex). Séverine also expresses disgust to Madame Anaïs. regarding a client who enjoys having his face stepped on, but can't help staring through a peephole, confirming that she's not immune to voyeuristic tendencies.

Buñuel will turn things on a head once again, when he introduces us to bad boy criminal, Marcel, a lout with metal teeth, who Séverine is immensely attracted to. Things go bad when Marcel becomes obsessed with Séverine and tracks her to her apartment after she tells him she can't see him anymore. His solution is to shoot Pierre who ends up in a coma. Marcel is soon afterward gunned down by the police but they fail to uncover his motive.

Buñuel comes full circle playing with his audience. If Séverine is repulsive in enjoying sex with the perverts back at the whorehouse, she's even more repulsive for being responsible for Pierre ending up paralyzed. After all, had she not decided to work at the brothel, Marcel wouldn't have ended up shooting Pierre. But things may not what they seem to be. Recall that Séverine refers to Pierre's "accident" as he sits in his wheelchair. An "accident" seems like an odd word to describe the shooting. Was it an euphemism or did Pierre actually have an "accident" (not the shooting) which caused him to become paralyzed? If so, the entire brothel sequence also may have been another figment of Séverine's imagination.

The film ends with another seeming fantasy sequence, where Pierre suddenly emerges from his wheelchair and he and Séverine are happy together again. Is this another way in which Buñuel seeks to laugh at our expense? Now Séverine is no longer the villain but perhaps the caregiver responsible for restoring her husband's health. Or is it simply 'wishful thinking' on Séverine's part? Recall the shot of Pierre's 'clutched' hand while he's in the wheelchair, suggesting death.

For those who enjoy intentional ambiguity where you can read a multiplicity of meanings into a film, 'Belle de Jour' is for you. Others (including myself) seek narratives with a more clear-cut meaning. The best I can say for 'Belle' is that it has a distinctive style. It's also a film that engenders quite a bit of thought and discussion. Nonetheless, in the end, this is a film with a lot more style than substance.
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tedg4 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

I have to admit, Bunuel strikes me as unsubtle and unintelligent. Oh give me Tarkovsky, Greenaway, Welles or Kurosawa; these men know the visual mind and weave something worth spending time with. Bunuel, Ken Russell, even John Waters go together as a single type, obvious minds way low on my `to watch' list.

Here, we have a simple construction: dream and reality generating each other, each as a performance shaped by the unsettling marriage of natural yearning and artificial social convention. We the viewers and often the characters are voyeurs. Bluntly, heavily, exclusively symbolic. Minimal and skillful storytelling within this primitive form. Except for the international pedigree, that fits Ken Russell, and any number of preachers who use film as a vehicle rather than an art.

The construction is so simplistic, even childish that the commentary on the DVD is a hoot. It features a woman with a southern accent reading the symbols for us: `now she drops the vase, symbolizing ....,' `now she walks through the frosted glass doors, symbolizing...' as if we were petulant Alabama schoolchildren. The whole enterprise strikes me as a comfortable, bourgeois intellectualism, but there is scant pleasure in this irony.

The art of the film is limited to the narrow appreciation of the minimalism and economy in moving the story ahead. But as mentioned, that story is a merely a flat canvas for a few unoriginal observations on politics and image.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 4: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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Since when is the surreal so boring?
blacktiefight28 October 2006
With such an engaging subject matter, prostitutes, sexual infedilities, rich prudish woman exploring her sexual side....why such a snoozefest? I do not speak French, but I found the acting average and the characters we dull and predictable. The dream sequences are dumb one-dimensional symbolism Freud would have laughed at. What is everyones fascination with Catherine Deneuve in this film? She has a deer in headlights look about everything she encounters, and she offers nothing new to the character she is trying to portray. I do not speak french but the bad acting translated itself straight through the language barrier. The scenes were often not funny enough to laugh, and not dramatic enough to be moved or interested. The surreal aspect isn't even engaging enough for this to be pondered. Perhaps I don't undertstand the surreal aspect, but I'm really not sure what people see in this film. The interesting premise and themes are present and this is what kept it from being a complete bore.
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Cosmoeticadotcom8 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
There was something about the 1960s that brought out a playfulness in filmmakers which allowed them to not have to condescend to audiences and wrap up every little aspect of the film in a neat little bow. When the films' techniques and narrative strengths worked, as in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup, or Ingmar Bergman's Persona, the result was a great film. When neither worked, the result was a pretentious mess, like Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby or Luis Buñuel's Belle De Jour- his 1967 foray into color film, based upon the same titled novel of Joseph Kessler, released in 1928.

The film has been described as an 'erotic masterpiece,' but forty years later one is left with a film that has so little sex in it that it could pass as a PG film if released today, as well as lacking all eros. Mild sex scenes are not, by definition, eros, and it's difficult to believe that anyone watching this film could have been shocked, much less aroused by a single scene in it. Yes, young Catherine Deneuve, as bored bourgeois hausfrau Séverine Serizy, is her typical gorgeous self, but having seen her in several of her later roles, plus her featured role in Roman Polanski's Repulsion, I seriously must question whether she could really act. In Polanski's film, she plays a neurotic, sexually stifled woman who sleepwalks through her descent to murderess, after what was likely a childhood of sexual abuse. Similarly, her character of Séverine was sexually abused (seen through flashbacks, and after which she refuses communion), but unlike the Repulsion heroine/villain, is not repulsed by raw sex, but attracted to the filthy sadomasochistic aspects of it…. Had Bergman made this film it would have been far subtler and better. That Alfred Hitchcock, by contrast, loved this film, says a lot, for his own films were equally dependent upon hamhanded views of sexuality, and most are equally outdated, as well, for that very reason. Apologists for the film claim that it allows viewers to bring their own thoughts and experiences into the film. Well, most films do, so that's not a great argument. Belle De Jour fails for the opposite reason; it lacks a core- emotionally, philosophically, and technically, masquing it all with claims of Surrealism- that label used to cover and alibi for all manner of bad art.

In short, this film does not even walk the walk, and Buñuel is not in a league with such filmmakers as Werner Herzog nor Antonioni, as far as symbolism goes. Belle De Jour may have titillated audiences four decades ago, but today it simply plays out as a wan and silly- as well as poorly wrought, exploration of a dull woman's sexual life, and how that keeps her deluded and miserable. One need not pay to see such, when a trip to the local supermarket can give you dozens of more interesting female subjects to choose from.
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Deneuve splattered with goo
jannings10 May 2006
"Belle de Jour" caught a lot of attention 40 years ago because Luis Buñel (1900-1983) directed it, and at the time he was considered "innovative." The passage of time, however, has not been kind to this movie. It now appears to be nothing more than a conventional sex melodrama, the kind French intellectuals were railing against in the French theatre as early as 1890. True, there are some unconventional turns, particularly the pedestrian "dream sequences" Buñel inserted to amplify the fantasies bedeviling the would-be whore Severine (played by Catherine Deneuve). But the sequences are unimaginatively shot and sometimes the editing is clumsy; a good example is the well known mud slinging scene, as Severine imagines her husband and his friend splattering her with a kind of black goo. It's utterly unconvincing.

The strength of the movie, if it has one, is Catherine Deneuve. She was (at age 24) approaching the pinnacle of her beauty in the film. The director was wise to choose an actress with her stunning looks, but he unfortunately could not convince her to degrade herself on camera. The degradation process is crucial for what is happening to the character of Severine. She remains prim and proper, as all manner of fetishists have their way with her; one can only speculate what an actress like Fanny Ardant or Isabelle Adjani could have done with this material. Both actresses were much too young in when the film was shot in 1967 to be considered for the part (Ardant was 18, and Adjani was a child), but subsequent performances by both actresses have revealed abilities that make the prospect intriguing.
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So she wants to be mistreated and be a prostitute? So what.
fedor88 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Some would have us believe that Deneuve's expressionless face is right for the role. Or perhaps she can't act? In her other movies she is similarly "detached", i.e. unable to act. I guess this kind of underacting, or "non-acting" was suitable here, but that's not to say she's brilliant as some people think.

The movie is again about kinkiness, Bunuel's favourite theme. Sex and sexual perversion, the hallmarks of European cinema. Bunuel was just a dirty old man, living out his own fantasies on screen, and yet film critics would have us believe that it's a "master at work". Well, even if he were a master – which he's not (he is merely a solid director) – the fact remains that he's a dirty old man. Isn't this obvious? Or is this ARTIST above such "low" human qualities…

Film students and movie critics ought to stop regarding some film-makers as gods, i.e. stop worshipping them blindly and regard them as the mere humans that they are. Some of the dialogue in the early parts of the movie is absurd, and I don't mean weird, but unrealistic and just badly written. I have a distinct impression Bunuel wrote his scripts within days, hours maybe even; there is also very little perfectionism in the way he sets up scenes.

The movie is okay, nothing more. It isn't dull, and it keeps one's attention: but why shouldn't it? Anything that goes on in a brothel is easy to watch without getting bored. Does one need to be a "master of cinema" to create an interest in watching the daily goings-on in a brothel?

Watching some of Bunuel's sex-themed films, I am often reminded of Germany's "Der Schulmaedchenreport" films, which is a cheap soft-porn movie series filled with humorous and sometimes perverse anecdotes. Why are those films considered junk compared to Bunuel's "masterpieces"? Let's face it, his movies are solid, but were he not a left-winger he would not have had nearly this much admiration from the film world which is so infested by Marxists.

Roger Ebert, that genius, is particularly mesmerized by the scene with the Chinaman. This happens to be the most badly acted scene in the movie - but to Ebert the mystery surrounding what's in the Chinaman's box seems to be of prime importance. "What's in the box?" writes Roger in his pretentious review. WHO CARES?! That guy probably had some metal balls in there which he wanted Deneuve to insert you-know-where. Big deal! What was Ebert expecting to be in the box? Litte green men? Diamonds shaped like elephants? Letters he wrote to his first girlfriend? Amazing...

Denueve is sexually not attracted to her "dull" fiancée. What she really craves is excitement, beatings, sexual perversion, submission and what-not. So what? Is this supposed to be "deep"? Believe me, I understood this movie - what's there not to understand? However, I do not see what's supposed to be so brilliant about this overrated little movie about sexual fantasies.
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