Luis Bunuel’s Belle De Jour is such a gorgeous, elegant film of immaculate wit and style that it’s easy to forget it is basically a film about sex. Catherine Deneuve, a bourgeois, twenty-something newlywed in Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin, is frigid with her doctor hubby (they have separate beds), but has fantasies of being humiliated, tied up, whipped and dragged through the mud. When a family friend (Michel Piccoli) with less than good motives tells her about a brothel, she nervously applies for work with the sympathetic madam (Genevieve Page), and from 2 to 5 in the afternoon, becomes Belle de Jour. Timid at first, Belle quickly becomes the customer’s favorite, and soon falls for a gangster (Pierre Clementi) with knife wound scars and silver caps over his broken teeth. >
This is a brilliant and surreal comedy, perfectly executed by Bunuel (and his co-screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere), who seems, like Belle herself, equally delighted and revolted by the kinky, fetishist sex, which is only suggested rather than shown. Still, Bunuel gets away with suggesting a lot, and in one memorably odd sequence, Belle is asked to assist a Duke in a bizarre ritual that takes in onanism, necrophelia and incest. It’s Bunuel’s ability to connect with the viewer on an almost subliminal level that makes this film so extraordinary. Interestingly enough, while the film has almost no nudity or profanity, it was still rated R when it was re-released in 1995 – almost thirty years after it’s initial release in 1967.