Belle de jour


1h 40m 1968
Belle de jour

Brief Synopsis

A frigid young housewife decides to spend her midweek afternoons as a prostitute.

Film Details

Also Known As
Bella di giorno
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Fantasy
Foreign
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1968
Premiere Information
New York opening: 10 Apr 1968
Production Company
Five Film; Paris-Films Production
Distribution Company
Allied Artists
Country
France
Location
France
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Belle de jour by Joseph Kessel (Paris, 1928).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Synopsis

Séverine is the beautiful wife of a young, successful surgeon, Pierre Sérizy. Although she loves her husband, Séverine is sexually unmoved by his too-gentle lovemaking and is haunted by fantasies in which Pierre orders her pulled from a horsedrawn carriage and whipped by two liveried coachmen. One day Séverine learns that a respectable married woman she knows has been earning extra spending money by working part time in a brothel. Intrigued, Séverine visits the establishment and, following a talk with Madame Anaïs, agrees to work there every afternoon under the name "Belle de jour." Now sexually fulfilled, Séverine finds that her relationship with Pierre is improving. But one of Séverine's regular clients, Marcel, a cocky, gold-toothed hoodlum, becomes so enamored of her that he asks her to go away with him. When she refuses, Marcel finds out her true identity, shoots Pierre, and is himself killed by the police. As a result of the shooting, Pierre is left paralyzed, blind, and speechless. Séverine feels responsible for her husband's tragedy, and her masochistic needs are perhaps fulfilled by the realization that she will have to wait on Pierre for the rest of his life. Pierre's friend Henri Husson, who has visited Madame Anaïs' establishment and seen Séverine there, arrives to tell Pierre about Séverine's other life. Henri leaves, and Séverine turns toward Pierre, who has begun to weep. He suddenly gets up as though nothing were wrong with him, and they look out the window as the horsedrawn carriage goes past, empty.

Film Details

Also Known As
Bella di giorno
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Fantasy
Foreign
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1968
Premiere Information
New York opening: 10 Apr 1968
Production Company
Five Film; Paris-Films Production
Distribution Company
Allied Artists
Country
France
Location
France
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Belle de jour by Joseph Kessel (Paris, 1928).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Articles

The Essentials-Belle de Jour


SYNOPSIS

Séverine (Catherine Deneuve) is the beautiful young wife of Pierre (Jean Sorel), a successful Parisian doctor. While she loves Pierre, even after a year of marriage, Séverine is still unable to be comfortable in a sexual relationship with him. Unbeknownst to her adoring, patient husband, beneath Séverine's reserved patrician beauty lies a vivid fantasy life involving violent masochistic scenarios of surrender in which she is dominated, punished and humiliated. To explore these fantasies, Séverine begins clandestinely working during the day as a prostitute in a high-end brothel while Pierre is at work. As her alter ego nicknamed "Belle de Jour", Séverine is finally able to achieve sexual satisfaction. Her proclivities to explore her innermost desires, however, lead her down an increasingly dark path. When a seedy client (Pierre Clementi) becomes increasingly possessive of her, events take a tragic turn. But in the surreal dreamlike world of Belle de Jour, how much is real, and how much is fantasy?

CAST AND CREW

Director: Luis Buñuel

Producers: Robert Hakim, Raymond Hakim

Writers: Luis Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière

Based on the 1928 novel Belle de jour by Joseph Kessel

Cinematographer: Sacha Vierny

Art Director: Robert Clavel

Set Decorator: Maurice Barnathan

Editor: Louisette Hautecoeur, Walter Spohr

Costumes (for Catherine Deneuve): Yves Saint Laurent

Cast: Catherine Deneuve (Séverine), Jean Sorel (Pierre), Geneviève Page (Madame Anais), Michel Piccoli (Henri Husson), Pierre Clementi (Marcel), Macha Méril (Renée), Francisco Rabal (Hyppolite), Georges Marchal (The Duke), Françoise Fabian (Charlotte), Maria Latour (Mathilde), Francis Blanche (Monsieur Adolphe), Iska Khan (Asian client)

C - 100 min.

Why BELLE DE JOUR is Essential

Belle de Jour is considered by many to be Buñuel's masterpiece, and it was his biggest and most enduring commercial success.

Catherine Deneuve's performance as the title character is one of her finest contributions to her distinguished film career as one of France's most luminous stars. It is one of the roles most associated with her.

Even with no explicit sex scenes and very little nudity, the film is widely considered to be one of the most erotic films in cinema history.

Buñuel's first color film, Belle de Jour is a sumptuous beautifully shot visual exercise that arouses the senses on every level, adding to the film's appeal.

Belle de Jour has endured over the years as new generations continue to discover it and debate its ambiguous meaning.

by Andrea Passafiume
The Essentials-Belle De Jour

The Essentials-Belle de Jour

SYNOPSIS Séverine (Catherine Deneuve) is the beautiful young wife of Pierre (Jean Sorel), a successful Parisian doctor. While she loves Pierre, even after a year of marriage, Séverine is still unable to be comfortable in a sexual relationship with him. Unbeknownst to her adoring, patient husband, beneath Séverine's reserved patrician beauty lies a vivid fantasy life involving violent masochistic scenarios of surrender in which she is dominated, punished and humiliated. To explore these fantasies, Séverine begins clandestinely working during the day as a prostitute in a high-end brothel while Pierre is at work. As her alter ego nicknamed "Belle de Jour", Séverine is finally able to achieve sexual satisfaction. Her proclivities to explore her innermost desires, however, lead her down an increasingly dark path. When a seedy client (Pierre Clementi) becomes increasingly possessive of her, events take a tragic turn. But in the surreal dreamlike world of Belle de Jour, how much is real, and how much is fantasy? CAST AND CREW Director: Luis Buñuel Producers: Robert Hakim, Raymond Hakim Writers: Luis Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière Based on the 1928 novel Belle de jour by Joseph Kessel Cinematographer: Sacha Vierny Art Director: Robert Clavel Set Decorator: Maurice Barnathan Editor: Louisette Hautecoeur, Walter Spohr Costumes (for Catherine Deneuve): Yves Saint Laurent Cast: Catherine Deneuve (Séverine), Jean Sorel (Pierre), Geneviève Page (Madame Anais), Michel Piccoli (Henri Husson), Pierre Clementi (Marcel), Macha Méril (Renée), Francisco Rabal (Hyppolite), Georges Marchal (The Duke), Françoise Fabian (Charlotte), Maria Latour (Mathilde), Francis Blanche (Monsieur Adolphe), Iska Khan (Asian client) C - 100 min. Why BELLE DE JOUR is Essential Belle de Jour is considered by many to be Buñuel's masterpiece, and it was his biggest and most enduring commercial success. Catherine Deneuve's performance as the title character is one of her finest contributions to her distinguished film career as one of France's most luminous stars. It is one of the roles most associated with her. Even with no explicit sex scenes and very little nudity, the film is widely considered to be one of the most erotic films in cinema history. Buñuel's first color film, Belle de Jour is a sumptuous beautifully shot visual exercise that arouses the senses on every level, adding to the film's appeal. Belle de Jour has endured over the years as new generations continue to discover it and debate its ambiguous meaning. by Andrea Passafiume

Pop Culture 101-Belle de Jour


In 2006 famed Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira released his film Belle Toujours, an unofficial sequel to Belle de Jour. It imagines an encounter between Séverine (Bulle Ogier) and Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli, from Belle de Jour) many years later. The role of Séverine was offered to Catherine Deneuve, but she turned it down. "I read the script because they wanted me to do it," she said in a 2009 interview with The Guardian, "but I didn't want to do it. I had the impression that it was only giving an explanation 30 years later for what I was, and what I had done." She was leery of doing something "that was only a proposition for Manoel de Oliveira, that had nothing to do with Buñuel. If it had been me," she continued, "I don't know, I think it would have been a little uh, 'So what?' you know? I think it would have taken something off Belle de Jour."

In 2012 Vanity Fair named Belle de Jour one of the "25 Most Fashionable Films of All Time." "Long a point of reference for the fashionistas at the glossy magazines," said Vanity Fair, "Luis Buñuel's Belle de Jour offers up the blanc-de-Chine beauty of Catherine Deneuve, who plays the upper-class Séverine Serizy in one nifty little Yves Saint Laurent dress after another. These exquisitely simple shifts and double-breasted A-line coats, hemmed innocently to the knee, belie the baroque sexual fantasies of Deneuve's character--from whipped slave to bound Saint Sebastian to precocious schoolgirl. With her tumble of hair pulled back into tight buns and gleaming French rolls, she suggests an over-the-top Hitchcock blonde--the heroines of Vertigo [1958], The Birds [1963], and Marnie [1964] absorbed into one damaged, deceptive persona."

by Andrea Passafiume

Pop Culture 101-Belle de Jour

In 2006 famed Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira released his film Belle Toujours, an unofficial sequel to Belle de Jour. It imagines an encounter between Séverine (Bulle Ogier) and Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli, from Belle de Jour) many years later. The role of Séverine was offered to Catherine Deneuve, but she turned it down. "I read the script because they wanted me to do it," she said in a 2009 interview with The Guardian, "but I didn't want to do it. I had the impression that it was only giving an explanation 30 years later for what I was, and what I had done." She was leery of doing something "that was only a proposition for Manoel de Oliveira, that had nothing to do with Buñuel. If it had been me," she continued, "I don't know, I think it would have been a little uh, 'So what?' you know? I think it would have taken something off Belle de Jour." In 2012 Vanity Fair named Belle de Jour one of the "25 Most Fashionable Films of All Time." "Long a point of reference for the fashionistas at the glossy magazines," said Vanity Fair, "Luis Buñuel's Belle de Jour offers up the blanc-de-Chine beauty of Catherine Deneuve, who plays the upper-class Séverine Serizy in one nifty little Yves Saint Laurent dress after another. These exquisitely simple shifts and double-breasted A-line coats, hemmed innocently to the knee, belie the baroque sexual fantasies of Deneuve's character--from whipped slave to bound Saint Sebastian to precocious schoolgirl. With her tumble of hair pulled back into tight buns and gleaming French rolls, she suggests an over-the-top Hitchcock blonde--the heroines of Vertigo [1958], The Birds [1963], and Marnie [1964] absorbed into one damaged, deceptive persona." by Andrea Passafiume

Trivia-Belle de Jour - Trivia & Fun Facts About BELLE DE JOUR


Famed designer Yves Saint Laurent provided the beautiful stylish wardrobe for Catherine Deneuve in the film. In a 2005 interview she said, "I think the clothes in Belle de Jour are very important to the style of the film because even today, when you look at it, it is still timeless."

In her private diaries that were published in 2005, Catherine Deneuve speaks of how Luis Buñuel wanted to use a crane shot in Belle de Jour but was unable to because no cranes were available in France at the time.

Buñuel's collaborator on the Belle de Jour screenplay (as well as many others), Jean-Claude Carrière helped Buñuel write his fascinating autobiography My Last Sigh, which was published in 1983. On the book's dedication page Buñuel says: "I'm not a writer, but my friend and colleague Jean-Claude Carrière is. An attentive listener and scrupulous recorder during our many long conversations, he helped me write this book."

Famous Quotes from BELLE DE JOUR

"What are you thinking about?"

"You. I was thinking about you."

--Pierre (Jean Sorel) and Séverine (Catherine Deneuve)

"I have an idea. Would you like to be called 'Belle de Jour'?"

"'Belle de Jour'?"

"Since you only come in the afternoons."

"If you wish."

--Madame Anais (Geneviève Page) and Séverine

"I see you need a firm hand."

--Madame Anais, to Séverine

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

Trivia-Belle de Jour - Trivia & Fun Facts About BELLE DE JOUR

Famed designer Yves Saint Laurent provided the beautiful stylish wardrobe for Catherine Deneuve in the film. In a 2005 interview she said, "I think the clothes in Belle de Jour are very important to the style of the film because even today, when you look at it, it is still timeless." In her private diaries that were published in 2005, Catherine Deneuve speaks of how Luis Buñuel wanted to use a crane shot in Belle de Jour but was unable to because no cranes were available in France at the time. Buñuel's collaborator on the Belle de Jour screenplay (as well as many others), Jean-Claude Carrière helped Buñuel write his fascinating autobiography My Last Sigh, which was published in 1983. On the book's dedication page Buñuel says: "I'm not a writer, but my friend and colleague Jean-Claude Carrière is. An attentive listener and scrupulous recorder during our many long conversations, he helped me write this book." Famous Quotes from BELLE DE JOUR "What are you thinking about?" "You. I was thinking about you." --Pierre (Jean Sorel) and Séverine (Catherine Deneuve) "I have an idea. Would you like to be called 'Belle de Jour'?" "'Belle de Jour'?" "Since you only come in the afternoons." "If you wish." --Madame Anais (Geneviève Page) and Séverine "I see you need a firm hand." --Madame Anais, to Séverine Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

The Big Idea-Belle de Jour


Belle de Jour had its origins in the 1928 novel of the same name by French author Joseph Kessel. In 1966 the producing team of brothers Raymond and Robert Hakim approached Luis Buñuel about making a film adaptation of the book.

Buñuel at the time was in his mid-60s and in the midst of one of his most creative and productive phases as a director. The Spanish born Buñuel was a pioneering filmmaker, iconoclast, artist and provocateur. Having begun his career steeped in the surrealist movement of the 1920s, Buñuel became one of the most prominent international filmmakers working in France, Spain, the United States and Mexico. His films, which included Un Chien Andalou (1929), Viridiana (1961) and Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), were known for their vivid and often shocking imagery as well as being highly critical of bourgeois values and institutions.

Buñuel demanded "total freedom" from the Hakim brothers before agreeing to make Belle de Jour. "I especially objected to a clause [in the contract]," recalled Buñuel, "that gave the producers the right to intervene in the final cut to protect their investment."

Buñuel decided to team up with his friend and frequent writing collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière to adapt the novel into a screenplay. The pair had first worked together on Diary of a Chambermaid (1964) and would ultimately make six films together.

Buñuel knew that he wanted to put his own creative stamp on the novel's story when writing the screenplay, especially when it came to exploring Séverine's inner life. "The novel is very melodramatic, but well-constructed," he said in his 1983 autobiography My Last Sigh, "and it offered me the chance to translate Séverine's fantasies into pictorial images as well as to draw a serious portrait of a young female bourgeois masochist. I was also able to indulge myself in the faithful description of some interesting sexual perversions."

The writing process and collaboration with Jean-Claude Carrière went "smoothly," according to Buñuel. Carrière called the process of working with Buñuel "a fantastic adventure."

The producers had already hand-picked actress Catherine Deneuve to play the role of Séverine by the time Buñuel came on board. The stunningly beautiful Deneuve was already a film veteran in her early 20s, having been appearing in movies since the age of 13. However, she had only recently achieved international stardom through her breakout performances in Jacques Demy's heartbreaking musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and Roman Polanski's thriller Repulsion (1965).

Deneuve's substantial talent as an actress, along with her image as an icy enigmatic beauty, made her the ideal choice to play Séverine. However, even though the Hakim brothers had already made their preference clear, Buñuel still had veto power over her casting. "If I don't have that freedom," he said, "I don't make a film." After meeting with Deneuve, however, he easily agreed that she would be right for the part.

After agreeing to use Deneuve, Buñuel hired Jean Sorel to play Séverine's oblivious husband Pierre. To round out the cast, Buñuel added a number of talented actors including Geneviève Page as Séverine's chic madame, Michel Piccoli as the predatory Henri and Pierre Clementi as Séverine's menacing client Marcel.

Buñuel hired skilled cinematographer Sacha Vierny to shoot Belle de Jour, which would be his first color feature. Vierny had photographed a number of films for director Alain Resnais and would go on to another lengthy period of collaboration with director Peter Greenaway.

by Andrea Passafiume

The Big Idea-Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour had its origins in the 1928 novel of the same name by French author Joseph Kessel. In 1966 the producing team of brothers Raymond and Robert Hakim approached Luis Buñuel about making a film adaptation of the book. Buñuel at the time was in his mid-60s and in the midst of one of his most creative and productive phases as a director. The Spanish born Buñuel was a pioneering filmmaker, iconoclast, artist and provocateur. Having begun his career steeped in the surrealist movement of the 1920s, Buñuel became one of the most prominent international filmmakers working in France, Spain, the United States and Mexico. His films, which included Un Chien Andalou (1929), Viridiana (1961) and Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), were known for their vivid and often shocking imagery as well as being highly critical of bourgeois values and institutions. Buñuel demanded "total freedom" from the Hakim brothers before agreeing to make Belle de Jour. "I especially objected to a clause [in the contract]," recalled Buñuel, "that gave the producers the right to intervene in the final cut to protect their investment." Buñuel decided to team up with his friend and frequent writing collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière to adapt the novel into a screenplay. The pair had first worked together on Diary of a Chambermaid (1964) and would ultimately make six films together. Buñuel knew that he wanted to put his own creative stamp on the novel's story when writing the screenplay, especially when it came to exploring Séverine's inner life. "The novel is very melodramatic, but well-constructed," he said in his 1983 autobiography My Last Sigh, "and it offered me the chance to translate Séverine's fantasies into pictorial images as well as to draw a serious portrait of a young female bourgeois masochist. I was also able to indulge myself in the faithful description of some interesting sexual perversions." The writing process and collaboration with Jean-Claude Carrière went "smoothly," according to Buñuel. Carrière called the process of working with Buñuel "a fantastic adventure." The producers had already hand-picked actress Catherine Deneuve to play the role of Séverine by the time Buñuel came on board. The stunningly beautiful Deneuve was already a film veteran in her early 20s, having been appearing in movies since the age of 13. However, she had only recently achieved international stardom through her breakout performances in Jacques Demy's heartbreaking musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and Roman Polanski's thriller Repulsion (1965). Deneuve's substantial talent as an actress, along with her image as an icy enigmatic beauty, made her the ideal choice to play Séverine. However, even though the Hakim brothers had already made their preference clear, Buñuel still had veto power over her casting. "If I don't have that freedom," he said, "I don't make a film." After meeting with Deneuve, however, he easily agreed that she would be right for the part. After agreeing to use Deneuve, Buñuel hired Jean Sorel to play Séverine's oblivious husband Pierre. To round out the cast, Buñuel added a number of talented actors including Geneviève Page as Séverine's chic madame, Michel Piccoli as the predatory Henri and Pierre Clementi as Séverine's menacing client Marcel. Buñuel hired skilled cinematographer Sacha Vierny to shoot Belle de Jour, which would be his first color feature. Vierny had photographed a number of films for director Alain Resnais and would go on to another lengthy period of collaboration with director Peter Greenaway. by Andrea Passafiume

Behind the Camera-Belle de Jour


For the striking opening sequence in which the audience first gets a glimpse into Séverine's masochistic fantasies, Buñuel originally wanted to use an entirely different location. "...my only regret about Belle de Jour was that the proprietor of the famous Train Bleu at the Gare de Lyon refused to allow me to shoot the opening scene on the premises," Buñuel said in his 1983 autobiography. "It's a spectacular restaurant on the second floor of the railroad station, designed around 1900 by a group of painters, sculptors, and decorators who created a kind of opera-house décor devoted to trains and the countries they can take us to."

Instead of filming at the Train Bleu, Buñuel ultimately shot the memorable opening sequence outdoors near a country estate. It was during the very first day of shooting this opening sequence that Buñuel heard about some complaints from his actors. "An assistant came over to tell me the actors wanted to talk to me," said Buñuel. It concerned the syrupy dialogue between Jean Sorel's character Pierre and his bride Séverine before the violent sexual attack. "Sorel had crossed out his lines and had written 'his' dialogue over them," Buñuel continued. "'What have you done?' I asked him. Very politely, he said, 'Excuse me, sir, doesn't this seem ridiculous to you?' 'Yes,' I told him, 'but don't you know what happens afterwards? After this banal dialogue, you begin to beat her with a whip, to drag her through the mud. Just deliver it as it is written.' And that's how he said it."

Buñuel's directing style, as always, was loose and instinctive. "I don't use any particular technique when I work," he said in his autobiography. "My direction depends entirely on how good the actors are, on what they suggest, or the kind of effort I have to make if they're not suited to their roles...all direction depends on your personal vision, a certain something you feel strongly but can't always explain."

While the film was shooting, actress Catherine Deneuve said publicly that she was enjoying making Belle de Jour. Other than remarking that shooting some of the brothel scenes could be "difficult," she said at the time that she was "in awe" of Buñuel and called him "wonderful to work with; kind, understanding, very sweet, very human."

However, Deneuve was much more unhappy while making the film than she originally let on. In a 2004 interview she revealed that making the film "wasn't a terribly positive experience" for her. She felt that Buñuel had been isolated from the actors by the producers, and there had been a breakdown in communication as a result. She felt "very exposed in every sense of the word," she said, "but very exposed physically, which caused me distress; I felt they showed more of me than they'd said they were going to...There were moments when I felt totally used. I was very unhappy."

Buñuel knew that she was unhappy, but he felt that it was mostly because she didn't understand his working style and the reasons behind his choices. "She didn't want her breasts to be seen," he recalled, "and the hairdresser put a strip of fabric around her. She had to appear nude for a moment, putting on a stocking to keep her breasts from being seen during that movement, she bound them up in a taffeta band."

Before the film was released, Buñuel was pressured to make some cuts for the censors, which he later came to regret. "The Hakims told me, 'By letting the censors cut one thing, you keep them from cutting even more,'" said Buñuel. He was especially bothered to have to cut the scene between Séverine and the Duke (Georges Marchal). Originally, the scene had Séverine lying in a coffin in a private chapel after a Mass with a "splendid" copy of one of Grünewald's Christ paintings clearly visible on the wall. "The suppression of the Mass," he said, "completely changes the character of this scene." The scene, he said, "had more value with the painting of the Grünewald Christ, which is the most terrible image of Christ...It was painted in a ferociously realistic style. This image was important because it prepared the audience for the next scene." An edited version of the scene stayed in the film, but to Buñuel, it lacked the same impact without the original imagery.

Belle de Jour went on to win the Golden Lion - the grand prize - at the 1967 Venice Film Festival. Pushing the usual buttons of shock and confusion that Buñuel's work often did, the film garnered considerable praise and attention upon its release. "It was my biggest commercial success," he said, "which I attribute more to the marvelous whores [in the film] than to my direction."

The film also generated a great deal of discussion and debate among audiences about its meaning and what scenes were real versus being part of Séverine's fantasies. Buñuel, as usual, didn't feel the need to explain his work, which only added to the film's mystique. This blurring of reality and fantasy, he said, was "what stimulated me to film the story. By the end, the real and the imaginary fuse. I myself cannot tell you what is real and what's imaginary in the film. For me they form the same thing."

One scene in the film that audiences obsessed over was the one in which an Asian client entered the brothel with a mysterious box containing an unknown object that is never revealed. When he opens the box to show the prostitutes what is inside, Séverine is the only one who agrees to an encounter while the others turn away in horror. Buñuel found that the most common question people asked him about the film later concerned the contents of the box. It was a question he found "senseless...I can't count the number of times people (particularly women) have asked me what was in the box, but since I myself have no idea, I usually reply, 'Whatever you want there to be.'"

As for the famously ambiguous ending that audiences debated endlessly, Buñuel said, "I don't understand it. This is my lack of certitude. It's the moment when I don't know what to do, I have various solutions and I can't decide on any one of them. Finally, I end up putting in my own uncertainty...I can only say that in life there are situations that don't end, that have no solution."

As he often did when he completed a film, Buñuel claimed after 40+ years of filmmaking that his latest work would be his last. "No more cinema for me--not in Spain, not in France, nowhere," he said at the time. "Belle de Jour is my last film." As was also his habit as a driven and inspired artist, his words went out the window as he was back at work in no time on his next film, The Milky Way (1969).

Catherine Deneuve decided that because of her negative experience on Belle de Jour, it was important to her to work with Buñuel one more time as a way to challenge herself and clear the air. Just a few years later she and Buñuel collaborated once again on the well-received Tristana (1970), which turned out to be a much happier experience for Deneuve.

Working on a second film with Buñuel, along with the passage of time, helped Deneuve make her peace with Belle de Jour. In a 2009 interview she said, "I prefer to be associated with Belle de Jour than a lot of other things, frankly. I think it's a great film."

Following its initial release in 1967, Belle de Jour wasn't seen again for many years due to some rights issues with the Hakim brothers' estate. The absence of the film from circulation--including home video--for so long only helped build up its mystique for a new generation who had not yet seen it.

It was Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese, a longtime fan of the film, who helped spearhead the effort to get Belle de Jour a limited high profile release in 1995 through Miramax Zoë, a subsidiary company created by Miramax to acquire and distribute French films in the U.S. As a result, the film found itself in the spotlight once again and soon became easily available to be discovered and appreciated by new generations.

by Andrea Passafiume

Behind the Camera-Belle de Jour

For the striking opening sequence in which the audience first gets a glimpse into Séverine's masochistic fantasies, Buñuel originally wanted to use an entirely different location. "...my only regret about Belle de Jour was that the proprietor of the famous Train Bleu at the Gare de Lyon refused to allow me to shoot the opening scene on the premises," Buñuel said in his 1983 autobiography. "It's a spectacular restaurant on the second floor of the railroad station, designed around 1900 by a group of painters, sculptors, and decorators who created a kind of opera-house décor devoted to trains and the countries they can take us to." Instead of filming at the Train Bleu, Buñuel ultimately shot the memorable opening sequence outdoors near a country estate. It was during the very first day of shooting this opening sequence that Buñuel heard about some complaints from his actors. "An assistant came over to tell me the actors wanted to talk to me," said Buñuel. It concerned the syrupy dialogue between Jean Sorel's character Pierre and his bride Séverine before the violent sexual attack. "Sorel had crossed out his lines and had written 'his' dialogue over them," Buñuel continued. "'What have you done?' I asked him. Very politely, he said, 'Excuse me, sir, doesn't this seem ridiculous to you?' 'Yes,' I told him, 'but don't you know what happens afterwards? After this banal dialogue, you begin to beat her with a whip, to drag her through the mud. Just deliver it as it is written.' And that's how he said it." Buñuel's directing style, as always, was loose and instinctive. "I don't use any particular technique when I work," he said in his autobiography. "My direction depends entirely on how good the actors are, on what they suggest, or the kind of effort I have to make if they're not suited to their roles...all direction depends on your personal vision, a certain something you feel strongly but can't always explain." While the film was shooting, actress Catherine Deneuve said publicly that she was enjoying making Belle de Jour. Other than remarking that shooting some of the brothel scenes could be "difficult," she said at the time that she was "in awe" of Buñuel and called him "wonderful to work with; kind, understanding, very sweet, very human." However, Deneuve was much more unhappy while making the film than she originally let on. In a 2004 interview she revealed that making the film "wasn't a terribly positive experience" for her. She felt that Buñuel had been isolated from the actors by the producers, and there had been a breakdown in communication as a result. She felt "very exposed in every sense of the word," she said, "but very exposed physically, which caused me distress; I felt they showed more of me than they'd said they were going to...There were moments when I felt totally used. I was very unhappy." Buñuel knew that she was unhappy, but he felt that it was mostly because she didn't understand his working style and the reasons behind his choices. "She didn't want her breasts to be seen," he recalled, "and the hairdresser put a strip of fabric around her. She had to appear nude for a moment, putting on a stocking to keep her breasts from being seen during that movement, she bound them up in a taffeta band." Before the film was released, Buñuel was pressured to make some cuts for the censors, which he later came to regret. "The Hakims told me, 'By letting the censors cut one thing, you keep them from cutting even more,'" said Buñuel. He was especially bothered to have to cut the scene between Séverine and the Duke (Georges Marchal). Originally, the scene had Séverine lying in a coffin in a private chapel after a Mass with a "splendid" copy of one of Grünewald's Christ paintings clearly visible on the wall. "The suppression of the Mass," he said, "completely changes the character of this scene." The scene, he said, "had more value with the painting of the Grünewald Christ, which is the most terrible image of Christ...It was painted in a ferociously realistic style. This image was important because it prepared the audience for the next scene." An edited version of the scene stayed in the film, but to Buñuel, it lacked the same impact without the original imagery. Belle de Jour went on to win the Golden Lion - the grand prize - at the 1967 Venice Film Festival. Pushing the usual buttons of shock and confusion that Buñuel's work often did, the film garnered considerable praise and attention upon its release. "It was my biggest commercial success," he said, "which I attribute more to the marvelous whores [in the film] than to my direction." The film also generated a great deal of discussion and debate among audiences about its meaning and what scenes were real versus being part of Séverine's fantasies. Buñuel, as usual, didn't feel the need to explain his work, which only added to the film's mystique. This blurring of reality and fantasy, he said, was "what stimulated me to film the story. By the end, the real and the imaginary fuse. I myself cannot tell you what is real and what's imaginary in the film. For me they form the same thing." One scene in the film that audiences obsessed over was the one in which an Asian client entered the brothel with a mysterious box containing an unknown object that is never revealed. When he opens the box to show the prostitutes what is inside, Séverine is the only one who agrees to an encounter while the others turn away in horror. Buñuel found that the most common question people asked him about the film later concerned the contents of the box. It was a question he found "senseless...I can't count the number of times people (particularly women) have asked me what was in the box, but since I myself have no idea, I usually reply, 'Whatever you want there to be.'" As for the famously ambiguous ending that audiences debated endlessly, Buñuel said, "I don't understand it. This is my lack of certitude. It's the moment when I don't know what to do, I have various solutions and I can't decide on any one of them. Finally, I end up putting in my own uncertainty...I can only say that in life there are situations that don't end, that have no solution." As he often did when he completed a film, Buñuel claimed after 40+ years of filmmaking that his latest work would be his last. "No more cinema for me--not in Spain, not in France, nowhere," he said at the time. "Belle de Jour is my last film." As was also his habit as a driven and inspired artist, his words went out the window as he was back at work in no time on his next film, The Milky Way (1969). Catherine Deneuve decided that because of her negative experience on Belle de Jour, it was important to her to work with Buñuel one more time as a way to challenge herself and clear the air. Just a few years later she and Buñuel collaborated once again on the well-received Tristana (1970), which turned out to be a much happier experience for Deneuve. Working on a second film with Buñuel, along with the passage of time, helped Deneuve make her peace with Belle de Jour. In a 2009 interview she said, "I prefer to be associated with Belle de Jour than a lot of other things, frankly. I think it's a great film." Following its initial release in 1967, Belle de Jour wasn't seen again for many years due to some rights issues with the Hakim brothers' estate. The absence of the film from circulation--including home video--for so long only helped build up its mystique for a new generation who had not yet seen it. It was Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese, a longtime fan of the film, who helped spearhead the effort to get Belle de Jour a limited high profile release in 1995 through Miramax Zoë, a subsidiary company created by Miramax to acquire and distribute French films in the U.S. As a result, the film found itself in the spotlight once again and soon became easily available to be discovered and appreciated by new generations. by Andrea Passafiume

Critics' Corner-Belle de Jour


"Luis Buñuel's particular combination of religion, decay, and morbid eroticism has never been my absolutely favorite kind of cinema...But Belle de Jour...is a really beautiful movie, and somehow, letting the color in--this is Buñuel's first color film--has changed the emotional quality of his obsessions in a completely unpredictable way." -- The New York Times

"...Belle de Jour is a fitting capstone to the curious career of an unpopular but near-legendary film maker whose favorite themes have been anticlericalism, madness, festishist fantasies and the wilder frontiers of sex...Since other directors have long since surpassed Buñuel when it comes to on-screen presentation of sex, most audiences will not find anything visually shocking about Belle de Jour. They will find instead a cumulative mystery: What is really happening and what is not?...Fantasy, he seems to be saying, is nothing but the human dimension of reality that makes life tolerable, and sometimes even fun. If this is his message, Buñuel dresses it up in Belle de Jour with unaccustomed cinematic smoothness. Instead of the brutal bludgeoning in black-and-white that audiences have come to expect from such Buñuel classics as Viridiana (1961) or Los Olvidados (1950), Belle de Jour is composed in color with an eye to elegance that is well suited to the cool beauty of Deneuve...Deneuve is well on her way to becoming a serious star." -- Time magazine

"It is possibly the best-known erotic film of modern times, perhaps the best. That's because it understands eroticism from the inside-out--understands how it exists not in sweat and skin, but in the imagination." - Roger Ebert

"...wry and disturbing tale of a virginal newlywed who works the day shift in a high-class Parisian brothel, unbeknownst to her patient husband. Buñuel's straight-faced treatment of shocking subject matter belies the sharp wit of his script...Deneuve's finest, most enigmatic performance." -- Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide

"Catherine Deneuve is at her iciest as the perverse Séverine, a Parisian housewife whose double life as a prostitute allows her to explore the masochistic fantasies that fill her dreams. Buñuel...easily travels between Séverine's real and fantasy worlds, presenting both with equal clarity...The director may have been ahead of his time, but he displays no more compassion for his characters than a psycho killer shows for his victims. Buñuel, who adapted the screenplay from Jospeh Kessel's 1928 novel, does give the audience a choice of endings. The happy one is obviously another of Séverine's fantasies. Belle seems the work of a beast." - The Washington Post

AWARDS AND HONORS

Belle de Jour won the Golden Lion - the grand prize - at the 1967 Venice Film Festival.

Catherine Deneuve received a BAFTA Film Award nomination for Best Actress.

Belle de Jour won the Best Film of 1967 honors from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics.

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

Critics' Corner-Belle de Jour

"Luis Buñuel's particular combination of religion, decay, and morbid eroticism has never been my absolutely favorite kind of cinema...But Belle de Jour...is a really beautiful movie, and somehow, letting the color in--this is Buñuel's first color film--has changed the emotional quality of his obsessions in a completely unpredictable way." -- The New York Times "...Belle de Jour is a fitting capstone to the curious career of an unpopular but near-legendary film maker whose favorite themes have been anticlericalism, madness, festishist fantasies and the wilder frontiers of sex...Since other directors have long since surpassed Buñuel when it comes to on-screen presentation of sex, most audiences will not find anything visually shocking about Belle de Jour. They will find instead a cumulative mystery: What is really happening and what is not?...Fantasy, he seems to be saying, is nothing but the human dimension of reality that makes life tolerable, and sometimes even fun. If this is his message, Buñuel dresses it up in Belle de Jour with unaccustomed cinematic smoothness. Instead of the brutal bludgeoning in black-and-white that audiences have come to expect from such Buñuel classics as Viridiana (1961) or Los Olvidados (1950), Belle de Jour is composed in color with an eye to elegance that is well suited to the cool beauty of Deneuve...Deneuve is well on her way to becoming a serious star." -- Time magazine "It is possibly the best-known erotic film of modern times, perhaps the best. That's because it understands eroticism from the inside-out--understands how it exists not in sweat and skin, but in the imagination." - Roger Ebert "...wry and disturbing tale of a virginal newlywed who works the day shift in a high-class Parisian brothel, unbeknownst to her patient husband. Buñuel's straight-faced treatment of shocking subject matter belies the sharp wit of his script...Deneuve's finest, most enigmatic performance." -- Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide "Catherine Deneuve is at her iciest as the perverse Séverine, a Parisian housewife whose double life as a prostitute allows her to explore the masochistic fantasies that fill her dreams. Buñuel...easily travels between Séverine's real and fantasy worlds, presenting both with equal clarity...The director may have been ahead of his time, but he displays no more compassion for his characters than a psycho killer shows for his victims. Buñuel, who adapted the screenplay from Jospeh Kessel's 1928 novel, does give the audience a choice of endings. The happy one is obviously another of Séverine's fantasies. Belle seems the work of a beast." - The Washington Post AWARDS AND HONORS Belle de Jour won the Golden Lion - the grand prize - at the 1967 Venice Film Festival. Catherine Deneuve received a BAFTA Film Award nomination for Best Actress. Belle de Jour won the Best Film of 1967 honors from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics. Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

Belle de Jour


Blonde and beautiful Catherine Deneuve became a star in France in Jacques Demy's 1964 musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and earned rave reviews with her riveting portrait of madness in Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965). But it was Luis Buñuel's controversial erotic masterpiece Belle de jour (1967) that made her an international star and became a worldwide box office blockbuster.

Deneuve plays Séverine, an elegant, aloof young housewife who loves her husband but is unable to respond sexually to him. She is plagued by fantasies in which she is sexually debased and abused by her husband and other men-and enjoys it. When Séverine learns that an acquaintance has been working in a brothel, she is disturbingly attracted to the idea, and visits the establishment. Soon she is working there every afternoon, under the name "Belle de jour" (Daytime Beauty), and not only juggling her two lives, but making her dangerous fantasies come true.

Spanish-born director Luis Buñuel was in his late sixties and in the remarkable final act of a prolific career that had seen him go from founding surrealist, to political documentarian, to exile in Mexico, to renowned international filmmaker. In 1966 Buñuel was recruited by producers Robert and Raymond Hakim to make a film version of Joseph Kessel's 1928 novel Belle de jour. According to critic Michael Wilmington, "Though Belle de jour wasn't a project Buñuel initiated or even a novel he much liked, he found in it the classic 'Buñuelian' elements: dark comedy, l'amour fou, unsparing social criticism, and intoxicating, terrifying dreams."

In his autobiography, Buñuel wrote, "The novel is very melodramatic, but well-constructed, and it offered me the chance to translate Séverine's fantasies into pictorial images as well as to draw a serious portrait of a young female bourgeois masochist." But he also notes slyly that he relished the task: "I was also able to indulge myself in the faithful description of some interesting sexual perversions. (My fascination with fetishism was already evident in the faithful descriptions of El (1953) and the boot scene in Diary of a Chambermaid, 1964.)" Along with his co-screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (who co-wrote most of Buñuel's later films), Buñuel reportedly visited brothels in Madrid to soak up the atmosphere, and talked to many women about their sexual fantasies.

Deneuve was already attached to the project, and Buñuel had no say about her casting. She found him remote. "It wasn't a terribly positive experience. Buñuel had been surrounded by protective producers, and we didn't talk much," she recalled in a 2004 interview. The nudity was also a problem for her. She felt "very exposed in every sense of the word, and very exposed physically, which caused me distress; I felt they showed more of me than they'd said they were going to...I think it's a wonderful film, but...the producers isolated Buñuel, I couldn't really talk to him, or see the rushes. There were moments when I felt terribly used. I was very unhappy." For his part, Buñuel said Deneuve was so shy that the hairdresser had to bind her breasts so they would not show. But he did admit that she was a very good actress, and when investors insisted that he cast her in the title role in Tristana (1970), he agreed. Deneuve says the latter is a favorite among her films-even though making it was also difficult.

Looking back on working with Buñuel, Deneuve mused, "French is not his language, so on Belle de jour, I'm sure that it was much more of an effort for him to have to explain. I've always thought that he likes actors, up to a point. I think he likes very much the idea of the film, and to write it. But I had the impression that the film-making was not what he preferred to do. He had to go through actors, and he liked them if they were easy, simple, not too much fuss." Buñuel has a cameo appearance in Belle de jour, sitting at a table with one of the Hakim brothers, in the Bois de Boulogne fantasy sequence where Séverine is picked up by the Duke.

Belle de jour won the Golden Lion Award at the 1967 Venice Film Festival, and opened worldwide in the spring of 1968 to ecstatic reviews and great box office. Arthur Knight wrote in the Saturday Review, "It would be difficult to imagine any actress more entrancingly right in this pivotal role than Catherine Deneuve. With her blond, wide-eyed beauty and patrician elegance, she seems wholly credible, immune to the sordid life into which she plunges herself." New York Times critic Renata Adler called it "a really beautiful movie, and somehow, letting the color in-this is Buñuel's first color film-has changed the emotional quality of his obsessions in a completely unpredictable way." Audiences and critics speculated endlessly on the meaning of the fantasies, and of the film's ending. Belle de jour became Buñuel's (and Deneuve's) biggest commercial success, which the director attributed in his autobiography "more to the marvelous whores than to my direction." He also had one complaint: "Of all the senseless questions asked about the movie, one of the most frequent concerns the little box that an Oriental client brings to the brothel....I can't count the number of times that people (particularly women) asked me what was in the box, but since I myself have no idea, I usually reply, 'Whatever you want it to be.'"

by Margarita Landazuri

Belle de Jour

Blonde and beautiful Catherine Deneuve became a star in France in Jacques Demy's 1964 musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and earned rave reviews with her riveting portrait of madness in Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965). But it was Luis Buñuel's controversial erotic masterpiece Belle de jour (1967) that made her an international star and became a worldwide box office blockbuster. Deneuve plays Séverine, an elegant, aloof young housewife who loves her husband but is unable to respond sexually to him. She is plagued by fantasies in which she is sexually debased and abused by her husband and other men-and enjoys it. When Séverine learns that an acquaintance has been working in a brothel, she is disturbingly attracted to the idea, and visits the establishment. Soon she is working there every afternoon, under the name "Belle de jour" (Daytime Beauty), and not only juggling her two lives, but making her dangerous fantasies come true. Spanish-born director Luis Buñuel was in his late sixties and in the remarkable final act of a prolific career that had seen him go from founding surrealist, to political documentarian, to exile in Mexico, to renowned international filmmaker. In 1966 Buñuel was recruited by producers Robert and Raymond Hakim to make a film version of Joseph Kessel's 1928 novel Belle de jour. According to critic Michael Wilmington, "Though Belle de jour wasn't a project Buñuel initiated or even a novel he much liked, he found in it the classic 'Buñuelian' elements: dark comedy, l'amour fou, unsparing social criticism, and intoxicating, terrifying dreams." In his autobiography, Buñuel wrote, "The novel is very melodramatic, but well-constructed, and it offered me the chance to translate Séverine's fantasies into pictorial images as well as to draw a serious portrait of a young female bourgeois masochist." But he also notes slyly that he relished the task: "I was also able to indulge myself in the faithful description of some interesting sexual perversions. (My fascination with fetishism was already evident in the faithful descriptions of El (1953) and the boot scene in Diary of a Chambermaid, 1964.)" Along with his co-screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (who co-wrote most of Buñuel's later films), Buñuel reportedly visited brothels in Madrid to soak up the atmosphere, and talked to many women about their sexual fantasies. Deneuve was already attached to the project, and Buñuel had no say about her casting. She found him remote. "It wasn't a terribly positive experience. Buñuel had been surrounded by protective producers, and we didn't talk much," she recalled in a 2004 interview. The nudity was also a problem for her. She felt "very exposed in every sense of the word, and very exposed physically, which caused me distress; I felt they showed more of me than they'd said they were going to...I think it's a wonderful film, but...the producers isolated Buñuel, I couldn't really talk to him, or see the rushes. There were moments when I felt terribly used. I was very unhappy." For his part, Buñuel said Deneuve was so shy that the hairdresser had to bind her breasts so they would not show. But he did admit that she was a very good actress, and when investors insisted that he cast her in the title role in Tristana (1970), he agreed. Deneuve says the latter is a favorite among her films-even though making it was also difficult. Looking back on working with Buñuel, Deneuve mused, "French is not his language, so on Belle de jour, I'm sure that it was much more of an effort for him to have to explain. I've always thought that he likes actors, up to a point. I think he likes very much the idea of the film, and to write it. But I had the impression that the film-making was not what he preferred to do. He had to go through actors, and he liked them if they were easy, simple, not too much fuss." Buñuel has a cameo appearance in Belle de jour, sitting at a table with one of the Hakim brothers, in the Bois de Boulogne fantasy sequence where Séverine is picked up by the Duke. Belle de jour won the Golden Lion Award at the 1967 Venice Film Festival, and opened worldwide in the spring of 1968 to ecstatic reviews and great box office. Arthur Knight wrote in the Saturday Review, "It would be difficult to imagine any actress more entrancingly right in this pivotal role than Catherine Deneuve. With her blond, wide-eyed beauty and patrician elegance, she seems wholly credible, immune to the sordid life into which she plunges herself." New York Times critic Renata Adler called it "a really beautiful movie, and somehow, letting the color in-this is Buñuel's first color film-has changed the emotional quality of his obsessions in a completely unpredictable way." Audiences and critics speculated endlessly on the meaning of the fantasies, and of the film's ending. Belle de jour became Buñuel's (and Deneuve's) biggest commercial success, which the director attributed in his autobiography "more to the marvelous whores than to my direction." He also had one complaint: "Of all the senseless questions asked about the movie, one of the most frequent concerns the little box that an Oriental client brings to the brothel....I can't count the number of times that people (particularly women) asked me what was in the box, but since I myself have no idea, I usually reply, 'Whatever you want it to be.'" by Margarita Landazuri

Belle De Jour - Catherine Deneuve in Luis Bunuel's BELLE DE JOUR


"I'd like everything to be perfect," moons young husband Pierre (Jean Sorel) to his beautiful wife Séverine (Catherine Deneuve), trotting down a country road in a horse-drawn carriage in the opening of Belle de Jour. "If only you weren't so cold." Her apology doesn't merely fall on deaf ears, it inflames him to sadistic sexual retribution, like something out of a Victorian melodrama by way of the Marquis de Sade. She's hauled out of the carriage by the two drivers, dragged through the woods, bound and gagged, stripped and whipped, and finally ravished by the servants, at which point her expression changes from the wide-eyed stage terror of innocence abused to the surrender to physical ecstasy.

"What are you thinking about, Séverine?," asks the same voice, now offscreen and, in a sense, in another movie. "I was thinking about you," she answers with a sweet but aloof smile, sitting in bed in their city apartment like a porcelain princess while her doting husband readies himself for bed. But the spell is broken and the reverie over. The fantasies of her imagination do not cross over into her real life, where she sleeps alone in a single bed by her choice, the frigid wife of the opening seconds once again. He inches in for a romantic overture and she once again rebuffs him. A year after marriage, she's still unable to give herself to her husband, a cultured, proper virgin with lurid sexual fantasies behind her physical coldness.

Luis Bunuel's cheerfully brazen satire of sexual repression, social decorum, and erotic fantasies is in the running for Bunuel's kinkiest film, and that's saying a lot. You could say that Belle de Jour stars two Catherine Deneuves: the dreamy, romantic young innocent of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and the uptight, anxious sexual repressive of Repulsion (1965). Buñuel didn't cast the actress -- she was pushed on the director by the producers, Raymond and Robert Hakim, and Deneuve had the impression that he took her with some reluctance -- but he uses that cool, aloof Deneuve quality as a defining quality of Séverine, the beautiful young wife of a gallant but often absent (emotionally as well as physically) husband. On the surface she's the picture-perfect bourgeois wife of a respected young surgeon with an almost reflexive disapproval of every break with respectability and dignity she sees or hears about, especially when it comes to Pierre's friend Henri Husson (Michel Piccolo), a "rich and bored" provocateur and gleeful chauvinist who doesn't let Séverine's disdain prevent him from constantly propositioning her. Yet she escapes her own resistance to physical contact with her husband through similar fantasies and finally follows them to a real-life Paris bordello hidden away in an urban apartment, where she signs up for an afternoon shift (thus her working name: Belle de Jour).

At this point, Buñuel dresses the elegant actress down from smart Yves Saint Laurent fashions to lingerie, nightgowns, and in one scene nothing but a white bridal veil, but apart from a glimpse of her shapely derriere beneath the net, we see no actual nudity. In a era where the sexual revolution brought explicit sexuality to European cinema, Buñuel doesn't physically expose Séverine (though Deneuve, who regards the finished film quite highly, did later reveal that she felt very exposed and used by Buñuel). He teases and titillates, suggesting all sorts of kinkiness and sexual peccadilloes without showing any explicit flesh. It's left to naked backs, carefully-placed sheets, expressions of surprise, and Deneuve's dreamy smiles of sexual satisfaction to suggest what's going on behind closed doors.

While Bunuel sprinkles Séverine's story with childhood flashbacks along with her fantasies (all of them about being defiled and debased by the men of her life), they only offer the illusion of psychological insight to her situation. Was she molested as a child? Did she reject religion? Is she driven by guilt or shame? Or are these simply more fragments from a mind wandering through desires and anxieties she can't explain? That's part of the joy of the film: Buñuel places the forbidden and the familiar side by side throughout, stuffing a seemingly straightforward narrative with witty asides, obscure mysteries (the buzzing box of a Korean client - the original "what's in the box?" puzzle and decades later still the most discussed scene in the film), genre twists (one of Belle's clients, a violent, bullying young thug played by a sneering Pierre Clémenti, becomes possessive and obsessive), and the increasingly elaborate fantasies she enacts for her clients, all of them delivered in a straightforward manner that straddles the kinky underside of life and a surreal fantasy world. And while he presents these sexual plays with a satirical wink, he also appreciates them as harmless games of grown-up kids. Buñuel may smile at these peccadilloes but he doesn't judge the fantasists, at least not for their desires. (The brutal thug is another story.)

The film was Buñuel's first color film since his days in the Mexican film industry and his only collaboration with cinematographer Sacha Vierny, who had photographed the early masterpieces of Alain Resnais. Buñuel's visual style looks to be largely functional on the surface, unshowy with sets stripped of extraneous detail to focus on defining elements, but his films are in fact very fluid, his camera constantly following characters, reframing shots, and picking out defining details and witty visual asides. Vierny is never showy but his compositions are handsome and his moving camera never less than graceful, and he helps Buñuel find a palette more restrained than the hothouse colors of his Mexican films. Belle de Jour has the crisp, cool look of an elegant French art film sullied by the lurid daydreams, sexual peccadilloes, and masochistic fantasies of his heroine. Buñuel literally throws mud in the face of Deneuve and, by extension, the decorum of society. By the end of the film, he refuses to draw the line between Séverine's real life and fantasy life, or perhaps more accurately he shows us that they are inextricable. That's one reason the film remains one of his masterpieces: Belle remains an enigma right through to the final shot.

Belle de Jour was previously released a decade ago on DVD by Miramax. Criterion remasters the film from a 35mm interpositive in HD for DVD and Blu-ray. Criterion remains committed to presenting accurately mastered editions of films for DVD and Blu-ray and Belle de Jour preserves the distinct texture of Buñuel's sixties films, from the quality of color to the texture of the film grain, without advertising drawing attention to it. And while the film looks nearly pristine, with no scratches or grit on the film, there are a couple of shots where you can see lint in the frame from the original camera negative. While it's unlikely that Buñuel intentionally left it there, it is a part of the original presentation and Criterion chose not to digitally "correct" this mistake. I admire that kind of dedication and respect.

The supplements (identical on DVD and Blu-ray) are new to this release. Film critic Michael Wood (author of BFI monograph "Belle de jour") provides commentary, activist Susie Bright and film professor Linda Williams discuss the film's portrait of sexual fantasies and sexual politics for the new 18-minute featurette "That Obscure Source of Desire" and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere discusses his collaboration with director Buñuel (on their first of many films together) in a new 2011 video interview. Also features an excerpt from the French television program "Cinéma" featuring interviews with Carrière and actress Catherine Deneuve from the set of "Belle de Jour" (originally broadcast in 1966) and a booklet with an essay by critic Melissa Anderson and a printed interview with director Luis Buñuel from the seventies.

For more information about Belle De Jour, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Belle De Jour, go to TCM Shopping.

by Sean Axmaker

Belle De Jour - Catherine Deneuve in Luis Bunuel's BELLE DE JOUR

"I'd like everything to be perfect," moons young husband Pierre (Jean Sorel) to his beautiful wife Séverine (Catherine Deneuve), trotting down a country road in a horse-drawn carriage in the opening of Belle de Jour. "If only you weren't so cold." Her apology doesn't merely fall on deaf ears, it inflames him to sadistic sexual retribution, like something out of a Victorian melodrama by way of the Marquis de Sade. She's hauled out of the carriage by the two drivers, dragged through the woods, bound and gagged, stripped and whipped, and finally ravished by the servants, at which point her expression changes from the wide-eyed stage terror of innocence abused to the surrender to physical ecstasy. "What are you thinking about, Séverine?," asks the same voice, now offscreen and, in a sense, in another movie. "I was thinking about you," she answers with a sweet but aloof smile, sitting in bed in their city apartment like a porcelain princess while her doting husband readies himself for bed. But the spell is broken and the reverie over. The fantasies of her imagination do not cross over into her real life, where she sleeps alone in a single bed by her choice, the frigid wife of the opening seconds once again. He inches in for a romantic overture and she once again rebuffs him. A year after marriage, she's still unable to give herself to her husband, a cultured, proper virgin with lurid sexual fantasies behind her physical coldness. Luis Bunuel's cheerfully brazen satire of sexual repression, social decorum, and erotic fantasies is in the running for Bunuel's kinkiest film, and that's saying a lot. You could say that Belle de Jour stars two Catherine Deneuves: the dreamy, romantic young innocent of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and the uptight, anxious sexual repressive of Repulsion (1965). Buñuel didn't cast the actress -- she was pushed on the director by the producers, Raymond and Robert Hakim, and Deneuve had the impression that he took her with some reluctance -- but he uses that cool, aloof Deneuve quality as a defining quality of Séverine, the beautiful young wife of a gallant but often absent (emotionally as well as physically) husband. On the surface she's the picture-perfect bourgeois wife of a respected young surgeon with an almost reflexive disapproval of every break with respectability and dignity she sees or hears about, especially when it comes to Pierre's friend Henri Husson (Michel Piccolo), a "rich and bored" provocateur and gleeful chauvinist who doesn't let Séverine's disdain prevent him from constantly propositioning her. Yet she escapes her own resistance to physical contact with her husband through similar fantasies and finally follows them to a real-life Paris bordello hidden away in an urban apartment, where she signs up for an afternoon shift (thus her working name: Belle de Jour). At this point, Buñuel dresses the elegant actress down from smart Yves Saint Laurent fashions to lingerie, nightgowns, and in one scene nothing but a white bridal veil, but apart from a glimpse of her shapely derriere beneath the net, we see no actual nudity. In a era where the sexual revolution brought explicit sexuality to European cinema, Buñuel doesn't physically expose Séverine (though Deneuve, who regards the finished film quite highly, did later reveal that she felt very exposed and used by Buñuel). He teases and titillates, suggesting all sorts of kinkiness and sexual peccadilloes without showing any explicit flesh. It's left to naked backs, carefully-placed sheets, expressions of surprise, and Deneuve's dreamy smiles of sexual satisfaction to suggest what's going on behind closed doors. While Bunuel sprinkles Séverine's story with childhood flashbacks along with her fantasies (all of them about being defiled and debased by the men of her life), they only offer the illusion of psychological insight to her situation. Was she molested as a child? Did she reject religion? Is she driven by guilt or shame? Or are these simply more fragments from a mind wandering through desires and anxieties she can't explain? That's part of the joy of the film: Buñuel places the forbidden and the familiar side by side throughout, stuffing a seemingly straightforward narrative with witty asides, obscure mysteries (the buzzing box of a Korean client - the original "what's in the box?" puzzle and decades later still the most discussed scene in the film), genre twists (one of Belle's clients, a violent, bullying young thug played by a sneering Pierre Clémenti, becomes possessive and obsessive), and the increasingly elaborate fantasies she enacts for her clients, all of them delivered in a straightforward manner that straddles the kinky underside of life and a surreal fantasy world. And while he presents these sexual plays with a satirical wink, he also appreciates them as harmless games of grown-up kids. Buñuel may smile at these peccadilloes but he doesn't judge the fantasists, at least not for their desires. (The brutal thug is another story.) The film was Buñuel's first color film since his days in the Mexican film industry and his only collaboration with cinematographer Sacha Vierny, who had photographed the early masterpieces of Alain Resnais. Buñuel's visual style looks to be largely functional on the surface, unshowy with sets stripped of extraneous detail to focus on defining elements, but his films are in fact very fluid, his camera constantly following characters, reframing shots, and picking out defining details and witty visual asides. Vierny is never showy but his compositions are handsome and his moving camera never less than graceful, and he helps Buñuel find a palette more restrained than the hothouse colors of his Mexican films. Belle de Jour has the crisp, cool look of an elegant French art film sullied by the lurid daydreams, sexual peccadilloes, and masochistic fantasies of his heroine. Buñuel literally throws mud in the face of Deneuve and, by extension, the decorum of society. By the end of the film, he refuses to draw the line between Séverine's real life and fantasy life, or perhaps more accurately he shows us that they are inextricable. That's one reason the film remains one of his masterpieces: Belle remains an enigma right through to the final shot. Belle de Jour was previously released a decade ago on DVD by Miramax. Criterion remasters the film from a 35mm interpositive in HD for DVD and Blu-ray. Criterion remains committed to presenting accurately mastered editions of films for DVD and Blu-ray and Belle de Jour preserves the distinct texture of Buñuel's sixties films, from the quality of color to the texture of the film grain, without advertising drawing attention to it. And while the film looks nearly pristine, with no scratches or grit on the film, there are a couple of shots where you can see lint in the frame from the original camera negative. While it's unlikely that Buñuel intentionally left it there, it is a part of the original presentation and Criterion chose not to digitally "correct" this mistake. I admire that kind of dedication and respect. The supplements (identical on DVD and Blu-ray) are new to this release. Film critic Michael Wood (author of BFI monograph "Belle de jour") provides commentary, activist Susie Bright and film professor Linda Williams discuss the film's portrait of sexual fantasies and sexual politics for the new 18-minute featurette "That Obscure Source of Desire" and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere discusses his collaboration with director Buñuel (on their first of many films together) in a new 2011 video interview. Also features an excerpt from the French television program "Cinéma" featuring interviews with Carrière and actress Catherine Deneuve from the set of "Belle de Jour" (originally broadcast in 1966) and a booklet with an essay by critic Melissa Anderson and a printed interview with director Luis Buñuel from the seventies. For more information about Belle De Jour, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Belle De Jour, go to TCM Shopping. by Sean Axmaker

Quotes

Trivia

Sitting in the outdoor cafe when the Duke gets off his carriage.

In the rape scene, her dress was fitted with Velcro to give off a tearing sound as it was ripped away.

In most subtitled versions of "Belle de Jour", italicized font is used to help the audience spot Severine's fantasies from reality.

Notes

Copyright length: 104 min. Opened in Paris in May 1967; in Rome in September 1967 as Bella di giorno.

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of the Golden Lion for Best Film at the 1967 Venice Film Festival.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1967

Re-released in United States June 28, 1995

Re-released in United States June 30, 1995

Expanded re-release in United States July 14, 1995

Expanded re-release in United States July 21, 1995

Expanded re-release in United States July 28, 1995

Expanded re-release in United States August 4, 1995

Expanded re-release in United States August 18, 1995

Released in United States on Video December 19, 1995

Released in United States January 1991

Released in United States 2006

Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (Live & Onstage) April 20-May 4, 2006.

Shooting began October 10, 1966.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1967

Re-released in United States June 28, 1995 (Los Angeles)

Re-released in United States June 30, 1995 (New York City)

Expanded re-release in United States July 14, 1995

Expanded re-release in United States July 21, 1995

Expanded re-release in United States July 28, 1995

Expanded re-release in United States August 4, 1995

Expanded re-release in United States August 18, 1995

Released in United States on Video December 19, 1995

Released in United States January 1991 (Shown at Sundance Film Festival Park City, Utah January 17-27, 1991.)

Released in United States 2006 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (Live & Onstage) April 20-May 4, 2006.)

Voted one of the Ten Best Films of the Year by the 1968 New York Times Film Critics.