The Criterion Collection for years have been releasing the best versions of movies on DVD and Blue Ray. They are hands down the ultimate praise a film can receive,and while many claim the Oscar to be the ultimate recognition. Having the work and praise that goes into a Criterion edition. Shows that it was put together by film lovers for film lovers. This section is going to be dedicated to some of the great movies in this growing collection.
Severine (Catherine Deneuve) is a happily married woman to a wonderful man who loves her very much. However she is just not satisfied sexually as she was before. At nights she has dreams of being humiliated by her husband and sexually assaulted by other men. This obsession draws her into the world of escorting and soon she decides to work in a brothel. Complications begin to arise when one of her clients falls in love and wants her all to himself.
Luis Bunuel’s “Belle Du Jour” is the story about woman discovering that she is a masochist, and in the sixties before the sexual revolution took place. Any type of sexual exploration and self-identity were extremely controversial. If this have been released today it would still cause quite a stir among its audience members. There is no real explanation as to why she decides to work at the brothel or about her abusive fantasies either. apparently young Severine was molested as a young kid, but I never understood that until I saw one of the special features that explains it. The Movie does show a clip of a young girl being molested by an older gentleman. I just assumed it was the younger daughter of the maid, but no it was Sevirine. Even with that scene understood, it’s still difficult to determine if that is the moment that triggered her sexual fetish. What turns one person on isn’t going to work the same for the other person.
For a movie that does not feature a lot of a lot of full frontal nudity. This is still one of the most erotic movies ever made. It’s the only early movie I can think of that was this sexually driving without it being a hardcore adult feature. Bondage,S&M,domination, and submission are among the taboo topics that are discussed in this feature. We like to think as a culture we are more sexually experienced now then back in the sixties. We just forget that everything we’ve done has been done many times before. Catherine Deneuve is spellbinding as Severine. She never makes any excuses for the choices she makes and the film never takes a bold stance to say if this woman is bad or not. When I watched this, I was attracted to this main character, and wanted to be one of her clients. I then felt some disgust when she had fantasies about being humiliated and taken advantage of. This caused me to have some hatred towards her husband(Jean Sorel) who really should have known his wife’s perversions better than anybody else. Then again Severine is also discovering these fantasies about herself for the first time and has maybe never discussed them with anyone else before. I don’t know.
“Belle Du Jour” is a very surreal movie, and unlike most movies that tell you what to think. Director Luis Bunuel wants to fill in any gaps you see with your own conclusions. Sex is rarely the topic in mainstream features today. Unless it’s a comedy or a thriller. I strongly urge you to read this great article over at Man I Love Films by Lauren who discusses the issues about sex in older movies verses now. Below that is a link to my very short review of this and another Catherine Deneuve feature.
Criterion Special Features.
New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
Audio commentary featuring Michael Wood, author of the BFI Film Classics book Belle de jour
New video piece featuring writer and sexual-politics activist Susie Bright and film scholar Linda Williams
New interview with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière
Segment from the French television program Cinéma, featuring interviews with Carrière and actress Catherine Deneuve
Original and rerelease trailers
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Melissa Anderson and a 1970s interview with director Luis Buñuel