Wednesday, November 28, 2012

BELLE DE JOUR (1967) - Luis Buñuel

The "hooker with a heart of gold" is one of Hollywood's most beloved tropes, almost as old as the industry itself. But what about Euro cinema? The Europeans have their own favored trope when it comes prostitution tales-- the beautiful, bored upper class housewife who hooks on the side, just for occasional kicks. If your competition in the call girl biz is Catherine Deneuve or Anouk Aimée, then it's probably safe to say you should learn how to type. Fast.

Deneuve's bored newlywed Séverine is sorely lacking in the heart department. Actually, she's kind of an ice queen. But she makes up for it in her overly-active fantasy life, which she relies on heavily as she and her Ken Doll husband (Jean Sorel) sleep in separate twin beds. The offhanded suggestion of her husband's older friend (Michel Piccoli, delightful in a sleazy role) and these private fantasies eventually leads her to a local brothel where she takes on the persona of Belle De Jour, so named because she only works afternoons while her hubby's at work. As "Belle," Deneuve quickly learns the ropes, hones her role playing skills, catering to a number of oddball johns like the Asian businessman (pictured above) with the box that mysteriously "buzzes." Soon Belle's talents attract a criminal element, and before you can say "weird wheelchair premonition" her second career begins to take a bad turn.

Not so badly for Buñuel, however. Belle de Jour is definitely one of best works. He uses Deneuve's stunning porcelain blonde good looks to marvelous effect, a blank canvas on which to project a host of warped fantasies (probably his own). Best of all, he never tells us what's in that buzzing box.

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