Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. France/Italy, 1967. Robert et Raymond Hakim, Paris Film Productions, Five Film. Adaptation and dialogue by Luis Bunuel, Jean-Claude Carriere, based on the novel by Joseph Kessel. Cinematography by Sacha Vierny. Produced by Raymond Hakim, Robert Hakim. Production Design by Robert Clavel. Costume Design by Helen Nourry. Film Editing by Louisette Hautecoeur.
Catherine Deneuve plays an icy, bored housewife whose life with her gorgeous, rich doctor husband seems to be perfect but it’s not enough for her. She avoids sexual contact with him and retreats into her own little world of sadomasochistic fantasies, and then an opportunity comes to explore the dark side of her desires when she goes to a brothel and starts working there in the afternoons (thus her name being “Belle de Jour”). Soon she has a devoted clientele, including one dangerous young man who wants to own her outside of her paid service as well as within. The end result of Deneuve’s experiment is the disastrous one you’d expect, and yet in director Luis Bunuel’s delicate hands it’s curiously not as judgmental as could be anticipated. Deneuve is marvelous, bringing her cold beauty to serve the director’s purposes, and showing an acute intelligence in the part that would mark her performances for years to come.