REVIEW: DVD Release: Belle De Jour

Film: Belle De Jour
Release date: 22nd January 2007
Certificate: 18
Running time: 101 mins
Director: Luis Bunuel
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Genevieve Page, Pierre Clementi
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Studio: Optimum
Format: DVD
Country: France

It has now been forty-three years since Luis Bunuel unleashed his acclaimed classic Belle De Jour. Optimum Releasing, which handled this reissue, claim that this erotic thriller is undoubtedly the director’s most accessible film, but as with his renowned surrealist movie Un Chien Andalou (1929), it’s a film to challenge the audience’s expectations.

Adapted from Joseph Kessel’s novel of the same name, we follow the uneventful life of Severine (played by Catherine Deneuve in a career defining role). Severine is an unfulfilled spouse of a surgeon. Her existence consists of nothing extraordinary - playing tennis, and going to meet friends, before her day concludes with her husband returning from work. As you can expect, their relationship is suffering from this constant daily routine, and her emotional disconnection from the world, her husband, and her loneliness eventually come to a dramatic turning point.

Severine begins to escape from reality; frequently diving into a fantasy world. This world consists of masochistic fantasies - ranging from rape to humiliation – as she longs for a better sex life. On another uneventful day, Severine overhears a friend of her husband’s mention the address of a local Persian brothel. She begins to investigate into this matter. Once arriving at the address, she decides to secretly become a daily prostitute that only works on afternoons.

Once taking on her new role, Severine tries to hide her newly found occupation from everyone - including her unsuspecting spouse. Little does she know, after an encounter with a local gangster; her secret may very well destroy her life…

The cinematography is magnificent. The framing of each shot is crafted with perfection, and the stunning locations are a sight for sore eyes. Bunuel knew how to represent true beauty on screen, and you are immersed into this striking and mysterious world via its lush visuals. On this score, the film does live up to the years of acclaim.

Likewise, Catherine Deneuve seems born to play the title role – though, the acting throughout this movie is extraordinary. Michel Piccoli is truly memorable as the wonderful Henri Husson; and Pierre Clementi as the seductive but deadly gangster Marcel stands out - stealing the limelight from Catherine Deneuve, even though her performance, equal parts sexy, confused, fidget and elegant, is perfect.

The sequences at the brothel are incredible, with the legendary clients that enter through the doors creating many memorable scenes, but whilst the deconstruction of the narrative does make for engaging viewing, and whilst many of the fantasies add depth, some (especially the final segment) come off as pretentious - obscuring the progression of the story, and throwing away tension built up in previous segments.

This release has a magnificent transfer – and the movie certainly does not look like a product of the late-60s, with crystal-clear picture quality and no hint of print damage. The extras, however, are slightly disappointing. The thirty-minute documentary Histoire du Film is more an extended interview with one of the creators of the film. A retrospective documentary on the impact of the film; for example with influential director and an in-depth interview with Catherine Deneuve would have been more fulfilling for film enthusiasts. However, the DVD does come with an insightful essay booklet entitled: The Films Of Luis Bunuel.

Belle De Jour is genuinely bizarre, surreal and hilarious at times. However, falling too often into the realms of academic study, the film cannot claim true masterpiece status. TJP

No comments:

Post a Comment