Thursday, January 10, 2008
The Great Movies: Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour
Luis Bunuel (1976)
A few weeks back, I said that "All About Eve" seemed more like a good movie than a great movie. "Belle de Jour," in contrast, seems neither great nor good. It is well made, and very well acted, but it is simply not very interesting.
It doesn't help that the theme of the movie is sexual fetishism. Kink always sounds like it should be interesting, but unless you have been bitten by the specificity bug yourself, a fetish is really just about the least sexy aspect of sexuality. Also -- and this is a problem that Buniel shares with Fellini -- he is working with mid-century conceptions of what makes people tick, from back when the discipline of psychology was still practiced with digging sticks and stone axes. What looks today like a crude parody of human motivation and behavior (the heroine, contemplating a forbidden sexual act, has a brief flashback to, I kid you not, herself as a child refusing a communion wafer) might haved seemed like the height of intellectual sophistication, back in the day.
Plot: The dissatisfied wife of a handsome young surgeon -- we can tell that they have a Tragically Empty Marriage because they sleep in twin beds -- has constant fantasies of her own sexual humiliation. She decides to combat her existential angst (remember, it's the 1960s!) by improving her communication with her husband and cultivating a creative hobby. No, ha ha, just kidding, actually she takes a more realistic approach and goes into prostitution. This works fine until she develops an attachment with a young, thuggish client with metallic false teeth. Hijinks ensue.
Dialogue: The dialogue seems a bit contrived and wooden, but then the entire situation is a bit contrived and wooden. Maybe it's the translation. It's an excellent cast, though, and the contrived, wooden lines are delivered impeccably.
Visuals: Well, it's always fun to see Paris in the background. Most of the action takes place indoors, though, in apartments decorated in the unfortunate manner of the late 1960s.
Prognosis: Highly recommended for graduate students studying male fantasies about female fantasies. If you are into Catherine de Nueve, or are a fetishist, you might dig it. If you have an actual Catherine de Neuve fetish, it will be life-changing. Otherwise, you ain't missing much.