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Belle de jour (The Criterion Collection)

4.1 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The porcelain perfection of Catherine Deneuve (Repulsion) hides a cracked interior in the actress’s most iconic role: Séverine, a chilly Paris housewife by night, a bordello prostitute by day. This surreal and erotic late-sixties daydream from provocateur for the ages Luis Buñuel (Viridiana) is an examination of desire and fetishistic pleasure (its characters’ and its viewers’), as well as a gently absurdist take on contemporary social mores and class divisions. Fantasy and reality commingle in this burst of cinematic transgression, which was one of Buñuel’s biggest hits.

Special Features

New high-definition digital restoration

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

Excerpt from the French television program Cinéma, featuring interviews with Carrière and actress Catherine Deneuve

Original and American release trailers

New and improved English subtitle translation

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Melissa Anderson and a 1970s interview with director Luis Buñuel


Product Details

  • Actors: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviéve Page
  • Directors: Luis Buñuel
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: January 17, 2012
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005VU9LP4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,602 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
First, let's get something straight: Belle de Jour was shot 35 years ago in France. It's just not ever going to look as clean, sharp, and saturated as a newer movie. Director Martin Scorsese (who spearheaded its re-release) is a purist; he would not want to artificially "enhance" the picture at the risk of distorting Luis Bunuel's original vision.
Second, this DVD is non-anamorphic for very good reason: Belle de Jour was photographed in 1.66:1 widescreen. 16:9 enhancement would actually have CUT OFF some of the picture at the top and bottom. People who complain about the quality of this DVD simply don't know what they're talking about.
As for the movie itself, Belle de Jour is one of the few films about eroticism that really gets it right - it knows that eroticism is in the mind, not the body. The always luminous Catherine Deneuve plays Severine - a woman whose life is at once picture-perfect and fundamentally empty. She is married to a good provider, the handsome but boring Pierre (Jean Sorel), and enjoys all the idle upper-middle class accouterments.
But something is wrong in this greeting-card perfect world. Severine seems to find erotic satisfaction only in the repressed desire to be humilated and used sexually. She escapes into waking dreams where she enjoys being whipped, soiled with mud, and bound to trees. This lurid fantasy life leads her to seek employment as a part-time prostitute - but only during the day, before her husband gets home.
Complications arise when her double life is discovered by her husband's friend Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli), and when she finds herself the subject of a stalker - a dangerously obsessed customer named Marcel (Pierre Clementi), who also happens to be a violence-prone thief.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Belle de Jour" is generally considered to be director Luis Bunuel's masterpiece; a surprisingly revealing and seemingly personal venture into the world of eroticism and its deviances. It's a truly surrealistic exercise in ambiguity, fantasy, and reality. The line that separates them is blurred so much that the famously mysterious ending has had critics arguing for decades over its meaning.

The fantasy sequences are usually signalled by the sound of carriage bells, but by the end of the film the viewer is no longer able to differentiate between what is another one of Severine's fantasies and what is reality. Even Bunuel admitted to not knowing himself. He said that "by the end, the real and imaginary fuse; for me they form the same thing."

The gorgeous Catherine Deneuve, resplendent in her icy prime, portrays Severine Sevigny, the middle-class wife of Pierre, a doctor. She is frigid, virginal, yet seemingly happy enough in her bourgeoisie life and its trappings. However, upon hearing about a local clandestine brothel from a friend, she pays a visit to the madame, and becomes a prostitute, going by the name of "Belle de Jour", as she can only work in the afternoons. She apparently fully realizes and enjoys her sexuality, despite her guilty conscience, exclaiming that she "can't help it". She certainly doesn't need the money. She's bored with her life and her marriage, needing a "firm hand" to lead her; a need which the madame, Anais, who is obviously attracted to her, almost immediately recognizes. Her sweet and conventional husband is unaware, treating her much like a child, and the audience cannot help but believe that even if he knew of her true nature, he would not understand or empathize.
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
A maginificent erotic comedy. Bunuel directs with masterly assurance this icy comedy about a frigid housewife, Severine (Catherine Devenue) who goes to work at a Parisian brothel. Only here is she able to indulge in her masochistic desires by being forced to perform for her clientele. The sly joke is that her loving husband's patience and consideration is precisely NOT what she wants. She wants to keep her social respectability but needs the brothel as an outlet for her drives (Bunuel's point being the fairly well-worn one, even by that time, that bourgeois society has to suppress perversions and control female sexuality to maintain its power).
What's amazing is Bunuel's "respectable" treatment of this material. His cool and discrete approach brillantly contrasts with the frustrated sexual lives and fantasies we see on the screen. Brief nudity, no explicit sexual scenes, everything is done through inference and association. And what associations! Bunuel's playful surrealism is in full force here - witness the mysterious box - and his cast brings this eroticized world to life (along with Deneuve, the best performance comes from Genevieve Page as the most refined house madam you'll ever see). "Belle de Jour" is masterful piece of latter-day surrealism: it's a wonderful demonstration of the emotional anarchy at the root of sexual longing and the particularly tortured outlets people use to satisfy their needs. And yet the whole enterprise is discreetly charming - it's light at heart. This has to be the most elegantly dirty movie ever made.
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