2 October 2017

STUDIOCANAL PRESENTS: BELLE DE JOUR. (1967) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




BELLE DE JOUR. (1967) DIRECTED BY LUIS BUNUEL. BASED ON THE 1928 NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME BY JOSEPH KESSEL.
STARRING CATHERINE DENEUVE, JEAN SOREL, PIERRE CLEMENTI, GENEVIEVE PAGE AND MICHEL PICCOLI. 
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago, long before two podgy schoolboys called Donald and Kim had invented their little game of 'My missile is bigger than your missile,' we Earthlings had a strange and wonderful thing called magazines.

And in one of those magazines, COSMOPOLITAN maybe or SHE or GLAMOUR, I read an interesting article once about a clever, attractive and sophisticated college student who'd taken to working as a high-class call girl to fund the cost of her tuition. Yes, she did have full sex with the clients as well as, presumably, accompanying 'em to fancy functions and pricey nightclubs and the like.

This sassy lassie didn't at all think that she was being degraded, rather, that she was empowering herself by using what God gave her to make money out of men. God knows, men are always telling us that we're sitting on a little goldmine, namely, our tuffets, haha.

I thought about this woman a lot while I watched BELLE DE JOUR, one of the surrealist Spanish director's finest and most controversial movies. It was pretty racy for its day. Of course, now we have FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and Tinder and whatnot and we have openness about sex coming out our ears so nothing shocks us any more. We're unshockable.

In the case of both my college student and Severine Serizy from BELLE DE JOUR, I'm still completely unable to make up my mind as to whether the women are being utterly degraded by the men who use them or if they are, in fact, empowering themselves. Maybe I should just give you guys the facts and then you can decide for yourselves what the deal is with these kinky broads...!

Severine is a beautiful young blonde woman (in the film she's meant to be twenty-three) who has married Pierre Serizy, a dashingly handsome young doctor. Severine behaves towards Pierre as if she's frigid, although 'frigid' is such an ugly word, usually used by men to describe us when we reject their pitiful pissed advances in a pub or club, heh-heh-heh.

Severine likes to be cuddled and held and kissed and fussed over as if she were a child, but she doesn't want things to go any further. She freaks out if Pierre tries to make love to her. Pierre is extraordinarily patient with her, even to the point of putting up with their separate beds. I can think of one movie husband, namely Sean Connery as Mark in Alfred Hitchcock's MARNIE, who wouldn't have been quite so patient or tolerant of his wife's coldness in the bedroom.

This Mark fella chooses to rape the frigidity out of his terrified wife Marnie, who since her childhood has been frightened to death of the touch of men. There's a perfectly sound reason for Marnie's fear. Luckily for Mark, his rape of Marnie, although it drives her to attempt suicide, doesn't put her off loving him. He seriously did get lucky there. Things could have ended really badly for them both thanks to his unforgivably oafish, insensitive behaviour.

Catherine Deneuve as Severine and Tippy Hedren in MARNIE and also THE BIRDS are the image of each other, which is why MARNIE came to mind in the first place. They could be sisters as they walk around in their lady-like little 'Sixties suits (they each favour pale-green) with their perfectly chosen hats and gloves and little dinky handbags.

They each have that virginal, frosty, touch-me-not aura about them, with their gleaming falls of golden-blonde hair and their porcelain white skin. There's a suggestion, though, that underneath the veneer of ice-cold virginity in each case beats a horny womanly heart.

This is exactly what happens in Severine's case. She can't bear Pierre to touch her, but she fantasises non-stop about being whipped, humiliated, and used and abused sexually by her husband's manservants. The fantasy scenes are quite kinky, especially the first one in which she and her husband are out for a coach drive through the gorgeous heavily-wooded countryside.

I'll tell you about this first fantasy, just to titillate you, tease you, tantalise you and whet your appetite for yet more kinky f**kery to come, tee-hee. Pierre suddenly orders Severine dragged out of the coach and roughly manhandled across country a little way by his two coachmen.

The coachmen tie her to a tree, strip her to the waist and whip her savagely, then Hubby says that the two lads can have their wicked lustful way with her. The fantasy scene ends with the coachmen undoing their flies. Ooooh-er, Matron. Bleedin' saucy stuff, this is.

Severine obviously has deeply masochistic tendencies, the kind that usually originate in childhood. She takes an afternoon job in a brothel and allows herself to be used and abused sexually by various wealthy punters. They're not much to look at, these boyos, but they're rich and if they give her the odd clout round the ear-holes, Severine's as happy as a pig in muck.

Then she meets Marcel, a cocky young lout of a thug of a gangster who carries a gun and behaves as if he's all that, which qualities of course attract Severine like a... well, like a pig to muck, haha. There are only so many similes to go around, you know. I quite fancy a bit of Marcel myself. Gammy gnashers, bad hair, poor dress sense but the swagger and confidence of a king. Phwoaaaaaar. Yes, please. Have him washed and brought to my tent at once.

The brothel madam, Madame Anais, is the perfect hostess-slash-businesswoman. She knows what a find she's got in Severine, or Belle de jour, as she christens her personally. Severine oozes class, from the tip of her perfectly coiffed, gleaming blonde head to the tips of her expensive, real leather court shoes that match her gloves and bag to perfection. 

She's a real draw in the brothel, a find in a million. A classy fit bird who likes to be slapped around? Gordon Bennett...! Take a ticket and form an orderly queue, laddies. All of you will be seen and serviced today, no need for any pushing and shoving there, boyos.

Madame Anais can make a fortune out of this horny little rich wife who's wandered in off the streets in search of degradation, humiliation and sexual fulfilment. The pin money Severine earns from opening her legs won't make much difference to her comfortable financial situation. This is one gal who isn't in it for the money.

But Hubby Pierre finding out about Marcel, and about Severine's little afternoon job, just might make all the difference in the world to Severine's cosy little sex-bubble. Oooooh, a sex-bubble. I want one of those, whatever the blue blazes they are...!

I enjoyed this visually gorgeous film immensely and I enjoyed also the parallels between Severine and Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie. I still can't make up my mind, though, whether what Severine's doing is empowering or exploitative.

By allowing herself to be used so roughly, is she exploiting and degrading herself? Or is she merely getting what she needs, craves even, the only way she knows how? F**ked if I know, dear reader, f**ked if I know. Maybe you guys will figure it out. Drop me a line if you do...

BELLE DE JOUR: THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (a brand new 4k restoration) is available to buy on DVD, Blu-Ray & Digital Download on 2nd October 2017, courtesy of STUDIOCANAL as part of their VINTAGE WORLD CINEMA SERIES. A separate disc, containing several excellent special features, is included in the price.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com












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