Belle de jour

   Film. Based on the 1928 novel by Joseph Kessel, Louis Bunuel's Belle de Jour is a psychological portrait of the character Séverine (Catherine Deneuve), a bourgeois housewife, who is unfulfilled by her relationship with her husband Pierre (Jean Sorel). Sexual relationships and desires form the core of the film, as is evident from the opening sequence, in which Pierre and Séverine ride together in a horse-drawn carriage. At first, the two proclaim their love for each other. However, in an abrupt change that reflects the logic of dreams, Pierre pulls Séverine out of the carriage, ties her to a tree, and offers to let the driver of the carriage have sex with her. At this point, it seems that the film has replayed for the viewer one of Séverine's sexual fantasies, an impression reinforced by the subsequent cut to a shot of Séverine in her bed.
   The division between fantasy and reality evident in the opening sequence is one of the more stunning and complex aspects of Bunuel's film. This division is manifested most clearly by Séverine's double life as a housewife and prostitute. Séverine becomes a prostitute after learning about an underground brothel from a friend. She seeks out the location of the brothel, which is ultimately revealed to her by a friend of her husband's named Husson (Michel Piccoli). The title of the film comes from the name Séverine takes for her prostitute persona, that name being Belle de Jour. It is apparently only by prostituting herself that Séverine can be sexually satisfied, although the line between fantasy and reality in the film is always vague. During the course of the film, the viewer discovers that Séverine was molested as a child, and this provides some clues as to her masochistic tendencies.
   Bunuel's film has been read on a number of levels. On one level, Belle de Jour can be interpreted as the psychological portrait of a guilt-ridden, bourgeois woman, whose sexual fantasies are inextricably tied to the humiliation she experienced during her childhood. There are, in fact, a number of masochists in the film, male as well as female. The influence of psychoanalytic theory is clear in the repressed desires of the film's characters and in the dreamlike structure of the film itself. Some critics have read the film through such theories, attributing Séverine's behavior to her childhood trauma, coupled with the guilt instilled in her by her Catholic, upper-middle-class background. Other critics have objected to the film's depiction of Séverine, reading the film as suggesting that all women have a repressed desire to be humiliated and that they therefore secretly crave abuse. Read this way, the film seems to justify gender-based violence.
   Yet other critics have read Belle de jour through the director's connections to the European surrealists. Like René Clair, Claude Autant-Lara, and Jean Painlevé, Bunuel was embraced by the surrealists, particularly Salvador Dalf. And there is clearly a surrealist influence on Bunuel's filmmaking. His first film, Un Chien andalou (1929), is often cited as a surrealist masterpiece that participated in artistic attacks against the perceived constraints of religious and bourgeois values. Similar themes are apparent in Bunuel's 1972 film, Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie, and in his last film, Cet obscur objet du désir (1977). They are also evident in Belle de Jour. The character Husson, for example, acts as a commentator on the dullness of the bourgeois marriage, and Séverine's association of sex with punishment draws from the church's linkage of sex with sin.
   Bunuel is also known for his creative manipulation of sound and image, for example the merging of the bells on the horses in Séverine's dreams with ice tapping against glass, or the image of the wilderness superimposed onto modern buildings. The boundary between reality and dreams becomes more blurred as Séverine gives way to her libido, and the spectator is left to wonder how much of the film is a representation of fantasy, and whether all of the fantasies are indeed Séverine's. However it is read, Belle de Jour remains an enigmatic and highly original film, and it provided its star with probably one of the best-known roles she has had.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Belle De Jour —  Pour adaptation cinématographique, voir Belle de Jour (film). Belle de Jour Auteur Joseph Kessel Genre Roman Pays d origine France Éditeur Gallimard Date de parution …   Wikipédia en Français

  • belle-de-jour — [ bɛldəʒur ] n. f. • 1762; de belle, de et jour 1 ♦ Liseron dont la fleur s épanouit dans la journée et se ferme à la tombée du jour. Des belles de jour. 2 ♦ Prostituée dont l activité est diurne. ● belle de jour, belles de jour nom féminin Nom… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Belle de jour — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Belle de jour Título Bella de día Ficha técnica Dirección Luis Buñuel Producción Henri Baum Raymond Hakim Robert Hakim …   Wikipedia Español

  • Belle-de-jour — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Une belle de jour est une fleur diurne de la famille du liseron dont le nom savant est Convolvulus tricolor. Une prostituée est parfois appelée une… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Belle de Jour — (dt. Schöne des Tages) steht für: Belle de Jour (Roman), ein Roman des französischen Schriftstellers Joseph Kessel Belle de Jour – Schöne des Tages, eine Verfilmung des Romans von Luis Buñuel Belle de Jour, eine ehemals anonyme Sexbloggerin,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • belle-de-jour — ou HÉMÉROCALE. s. f. Espèce de lis. On la cultive dans les jardins pour la beauté de sa fleur. Elle est d un jaune tirant sur le rouge …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • Belle de jour — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel: Belle de jour – Schöne des Tages Originaltitel: Belle de jour Produktionsland: Frankreich Erscheinungsjahr: 1967 Länge: 101 Minuten Originalsprache: französisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Belle de jour — Infobox Film | name = Belle de jour caption = Belle de jour movie poster director = Luis Buñuel producer = Henri Baum Raymond Hakim Robert Hakim writer = Luis Buñuel Jean Claude Carrière Joseph Kessel starring =Catherine Deneuve Jean Sorel Michel …   Wikipedia

  • Belle de jour — (1966)    Film. Based on the 1928 novel by Joseph Kessel, Louis Bunuel s Belle de Jour is a psychological portrait of the character Séverine (Catherine Deneuve), a bourgeois housewife, who is unfulfilled by her relationship with her husband… …   Guide to cinema

  • Belle de jour — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Les belles de jour sont des fleurs diurnes de la famille des convolvulacées (liserons). Une belle de jour est une prostituée travaillant de jour (par… …   Wikipédia en Français

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