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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Belle De Jour (1967)

A respectable young Parisian housewife (Catherine Deneuve) married to a doctor (Jean Sorel) is frigid. This apparently stems from sexual abuse as a child. However, she soon finds a sexual freedom working during the afternoon as a prostitute in a brothel which brings out her masochist tendencies. Based on the novel by Joseph Kessel, Luis Bunuel's pungent piece of sexual surrealism has lost none of its bite in its almost 50 years. Perfectly cast, Deneuve's elegant facade hides a dangerous fetish under her porcelain exterior and she gives her most iconic performance. The film is rife with symbolism, some obvious and some not so obvious (just what does those unseen cats meowing on the soundtrack mean?) that Freud would have a field day. Bunuel keeps us off kilter between Deneuve's sexual fantasies and the film's "reality" so that we don't even know how the film really ends. We're given an ending but is it real or a fantasy? A disturbing, unsettling film when it opened in 1967 and no less so today. With Michel Piccoli, Genevieve Page, Pierre Clementi (genuinely creepy), Macha Meril, Francoise Fabian and Francisco Rabal.

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