With this year marking the 50th Anniversary of the French classic from acclaimed director Luis Buñuel, Belle de Jour arrives in a stunning 4K re-mastering that still holds up after all these years. Mysterious and sensual, this film explores the hidden needs and desires of an apparently placid bourgeois housewife named Séverine with Catherine Deneuve starring as the eponymous dissatisfied beauty who spends her days living the dream as a high-class call-girl while her husband is out at work as a local doctor. Based on the cause célèbre 1928 novel by Joseph Kessel, Belle de Jour was an immediate critical success, and would serve as the template for many dodgy erotic thrillers that followed with all too few of them matching this film’s edgy and subversive spirit.
As much as this is an erotic thriller, this is also a surrealistic exploration into ambiguity, fantasy and reality, yet the lines that separates them are incredibly blurred, even right down to the ending being open to interpretation, even after all these years of discussion amongst critics and audiences. The sound of carriage bells is what’s used to signalise the fantasy sequences, but by the end, you’re not so certain how you can differentiate what’s real or what’s just another figment of Severine’s mind.
The use of colour in this movie is sumptuous and is used cleverly in certain scenes; Deneuve’s Severine is defined by her wardrobe which ranges from tan, light blue, black and white, while the world around her explodes in glorious warm hues. At the centre of this movie is the mercurial Catherine Deneuve, who exudes a frosty, yet frigid and virginal allure that makes her fascinating to watch on screen. Deneuve was famously given BAFTA nomination for her performance, which would define her as an icon of 20th century cinema long after the film’s release.
Belle de Jour is a film that’s ambiguous and alluring in equal measure, and while that can be alienating for modern audiences, this is a film that is still radical, thought provoking and enticing after 50 years. Its use of colour is exquisite, the lush cinematography is fantastic, Luis Buñuel’s direction is cinematic, and Catherine Deneuve’s central performance is as fascinating and mysterious as the movie itself. With the movie now being released on Blu-ray with its 4K restoration, now is the perfect time to check out this true cinematic gem.
BELLE DE JOUR 50TH ANNIVERSARY / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: LUIS BUÑUEL / SCREENPLAY: LUIS BUÑUEL, JEAN-CLAUDE CARRIÉRE / STARRING: CATHERINE DENEUVE, JEAN SOREL, MICHEL PICCOLI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW