From one of the French New Wave directors. Is Luis Bunuel's Belle De Jour an 'erotic' film? Yes and No. One may unwittingly say so just by passing a look at the film's cover(or in the pic above,obviously). But rest assured, the film does not contain anything(sexually) that we haven't seen before. In a sense, it is even more 'tame' than the average Hollywood production. Belle DE Jour does not have any extreme sexually explicit images, full frontal nudity, or even vulgarities common in films of this nature. But it still is, thematically, an erotica.
It ranks amongst the same league as Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, Almodovar's Matador, and Lynch's Blue Velvet, which explores similar theme of exploration of sex fantasies. But what makes Belle Du Jour a unique and a cut-above-the-rest picture than those is that, given the sexual focus of the film, it does not depict sex in a 'direct' visual presentation(as I stated before). It relies ultimately on the imagination and fantasy; in this case the sexual fantasies of the characters depicted. And what we don't see is more important than what we do.
Instead of just weaving the story of the film along, Bunuel lets the audience, in a sense, to 'participate' in the film. Join the 'dreams' of Severine(Catherine Deneuve) which Bunuel shifts in-between reality. Blurring the lines of reality and fantasy, Bunuel expresses his point: How different are they? Severine resorts to her sexual passions through her fantasies, and the brothel clients realize their own fantasies. Upon viewing them 'reenacting' their fantasies in the brothel, Severine felt disgusted by the thought of these people who are willing to sink so low. But later it is apparent that she is not much different than them. A 'double-life' that she thought she was undergoing, turns out to be what she has become is really her. It's undenyingly engrossing just to watch Severine's character develops and changes from naive, classy woman that she was.
Some may think that Bunuel's method is manipulative, but this is what makes the film exquisite, and demands repeated viewings. The only drawback of the film that I can think of is the lack of deep characterization. Excluding the main character Severine, the other characters are a bit 2-dimensional/caricatures. But this definitely does not mar what makes this film such a classic.
My Verdict: 4.5/5
September 9, 2006