Take A Whip On The Masochist Side
We’re BIG fans of STUDIOCANAL over on Flush, they’re constantly coming up with the goods, resurrecting treasures that really stand the test of time, and reintroducing them with lovingly restored 4K treatments that not only show their optimum quality, but also support them with in-depth extras to give a clear context to the works relative to their release and contemporary times.
Given that folk may not be familiar with various director’s work, this is a fantastic way of opening windows, doors and gateways into yet unventured mind expanding worlds. Basically it’s like going to the best film college EVER in your own lounge!
And they’ve done it once again with the 50th Anniversary release of Luis Buñuel’s dark, beautiful and somewhat surreal tale ‘Belle De Jour’ (1967) with a spanking (pun intended) new 4K restoration, aptly showing the sheer beauty of not only the film and but also the hypnotic coy allure of Catherine Deneuve as she engages on a libidinous journey into her own psyche, sexual awakenings and yearnings.
Deneuve plays Séverine, the highly preened and presentable bourgeois trophy wife. Married to the movie star handsome surgeon Pierre (Jean Sorel), they look like the ultimate couple on the surface, but that really is a veneer. Their apartment is like a show room of exquisite taste and ceremony, everything has it’s place, and Pierre’s place is not in his wife’s bed.
They’ve been married for one year, and despite proclamations of love by Séverine, they never evolve into carnal escapades as she constantly refutes Pierre’s advances, sending him with his ‘tail’ between his legs scampering back in his silk pyjamas to his no doubt custom built single bed. This may be something you’d expect from a decades old relationship, but at only one year in, it doesn’t look good on the inside, but to society, appearances must be kept up.
It may sound like familiar struggling relationship fare, but is anything but. Given that the movie opens with what is basically a rape fantasy from Séverine’s Id, this is not going to be a Disney exploration of human desires and specifically suppressions. Indeed maybe we will only truly know ourselves when we journey to the edge of our own persona and this is one such expedition. Sometimes that journey is voluntary, and sometimes it’s thrust upon us, or indeed we’re coerced into it as in this case. Despite any apparent repressions that Séverine has, it’s not so much the awakening or opening of a gorgeous flower that we’re watching, it’s more an alluring rose turning carnivorous.
Mixed in the surreal moments of latent desires, there are flashbacks of her youth, which to the attentive will give a subtle insight to possible reasons as to her current plight. Nothing is overt, well certainly explained, but there are hints of abuse, trauma and triggers that are deeply scared into her mind and body, that show they’ve been suppressed her entire life, and despite her marriage to someone she proclaims she loves, her relationship with men in general is understandably warped and damaged.
Her journey becomes a sort of self therapy although it’s instigated in a Machiavellian manner by a supposed friend of Pierre, Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli) who introduces the topic of ‘houses’ (brothels) that he used to frequent. A manipulative dominating older figure (like her abuser) he recognises Séverine‘s fragility and cruelly begins to play with her life as he wants her, like a new toy.
The seeds of debauchery sown, Séverine convinces herself that the road/bed to salvation is through prostitution and she joins a local house under the guidance/tuition of Madame Anaïs. The rest of the journey you’ll have to explore yourself, and explore you absolutely must.
It’s an incredible piece of work that is only enhanced by the surreal elements that allow possible human truths to be investigated. It works on multiple levels of existence, authenticity, honesty, relationships, expectations, societal pressures, lies, deceits, desires, abuse, patriarchy, suppressions and the darker aspects of where the human mind is capable of going, despite being aware of the potential outcomes.
Deneuve is truly stunning throughout, with the slightest of looks or movements being lifetimes deep in effect. The rest of the cast are excellent, in particular Piccoli but also Pierre Clémenti as Marcel who Séverine really goes off the deep end with later in the movie.
Those unfamiliar with the Spanish director Buñuel are in for an adult treat of a movie, and given the great amount of extra content with interviews, documentaries and an excellent commentary by Peter W. Evans Emeritus Professor of Film Studies at Queen Mary University of London, it fully explains the background and topics to not only this outstanding movie, but the fascinating history of Buñuel himself, all leading to a very rich experience indeed.
This Anniversary Edition is also a percussor to a forthcoming box set Buñuel – The Essential Collection that will be released on October 23 that will have seven of his most renowned works, and all with a plethora of extras, so it really is essential.
10/10 ‘Belle De Jour’ The 50th Anniversary Edition 4K is out now from STUDIOCANAL on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download.
@StudiocanalUK on Twitter