#282 Belle de Jour

Watched: November 2 2020

Director: Luis Buñuel

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviève Page, Pierre Clémenti

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 40min

Séverine (Deneuve) is married to Pierre (Sorel) and on the surface their relationship is perfect. He is a respected and successful doctor and she is… pretty. That’s basically all you need to make a marriage work.

Well, that and the occasional light BDSM

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However, there is trouble in paradise. Séverine struggles with her sexuality after childhood molestation and is unable to have a normal sexlife with her husband. Her sexuality is further confused by her BDSM/rape fantasies – fantasies she cannot act on or even communicate to Pierre.

“You’re right, it has been a while since we saw your parents. Perhaps we should go next weekend? Oh, and could you pick up some milk after work tomorrow? Great. By the way, I’m going to need you to tie me up and rape me in order to get over my sexual hang-ups. And Renee says hi! We played tennis earlier today.”

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Since therapy was obviously not yet invented in France in the 1960s, Séverine decides to deal with her problems in her own way, by becoming a prostitute. Every day between two and five, she entertains at Madame Anais’ (Page) brothel as “Belle de jour” – Beauty of the day. Now, while this gives Séverine an opportunity to explore her sexuality in a “safe” way (i.e. with no emotional involvement or societal expectation of purity), this charade cannot last. Especially when one client becomes more than just a random John…

What woman can resist an underfed, criminal, alternative rock band front man with violent tendencies and an emo haircut?

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We love us some Buñuel, and Belle de jour delivers. The surrealism he’s known for may not be as pronounced as in many of his other works, but there are definite influences in the blurring of fantasy, dream and reality. It’s also an excellent example of how to make something sexy and alluring without actually showing much skin, and a very interesting exploration of “broken” female sexuality.

Oh, and did we mention Séverine’s outfits by Yves Saint-Laurent? That girl looks gooood in this movie (as opposed to her usual drab and dowdy look, you know).

Life Hack: You can always tell fiction from reality based on how many coats a person owns. If you’re supposed to be middle class but have a new coat for every day of the month, you’re a fictional character. If you’re unsure about your own status, check your closet and start counting.

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The costumes were great, we loved the Asian client (what’s with the bells?? What’s in the box???), we loved to hate Mr Husson (a truly horrible man), and we really enjoyed not always knowing which part was real life, which part was fantasy… There was also a touch of À bout de souffle towards the ending. All in all, this was a winner!

“I never imagined it could be so… small. And shiny! Has it always been detachable?”

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What we learned: All the things that can fuck up a girl’s sexuality. Also, men can proudly visit prostitutes, but prostitutes must be ashamed of providing the service. Go figure.

Next time: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

#254 Repulsion

Watched: February 9 2020

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux, Patrick Wymark

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 45min

repulsion

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So, here’s the thing. We enjoyed the movie. We loved Catherine Deneuve. The story is intriguing, and the men are sleazy and disgusting. However, watching Polanski-movies is difficult in light of, well, him… (And yes, we know this might seem a bit hypocritical seeing as we actually did review Knife in the Water. We have just given it a bit more thought since then. And sure, there are probably lots of other problematic directors as well, but in this case there is so little doubt and it is so well publicized that it cannot be ignored.)

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Also, he’s clearly just ripping off Beauty and the Beast

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It’s the continuous debate of whether one can truly separate the artist from the art. Considering that he still goes free and is even rewarded (and awarded) despite being a rapist piece of shit, viewing and reviewing his movies is conflicting. Especially when they involve sleazy men trying to take advantage of mentally ill women. But, like, sexy mentally ill women. So that makes it ok, apparently…

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Cause as we all know, nothing is sexier than a spiralling woman. She probably just needs a penis to set her straight.

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We’re not going to tell you whether to watch this or not. It’s entirely up to you. The film itself is intriguing and beautifully shot, but it is also problematic in oh so many ways.

What we learned: Watching (old) Polanski movies is difficult…

Next time: Simon of the Desert (1965)

#246 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg/Les parapluies de Cherbourg

Watched: November 11 2019

Director: Jacques Demy

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, Marc Michel, Ellen Farner, Mireille Perrey

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 31min

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Geneviève Emery (Deneuve) lives with her mother Mme Emery (Vernon) in Cherbourg, selling umbrellas. Not umbrellas, bags, shoes, and raincoats, or anything which might help them actually earn a living. Nope. Just umbrellas. We’ve never been to Cherbourg, but now our impression is that of a rainy town filled with forgetful and/or wasteful people.

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“Maman! Maman! I think I see a raincloud! If someone didn’t check the forecast before they left the house today we might actually eat something this week.”

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Not surprisingly, the mother-daughter-team struggle to make ends meet and Maman wants her daughter to marry rich. Specifically Roland (Michel), a character we remember from Lola, who has taken a fancy to the young umbrella salesgirl. Geneviève on the other hand is in love with mechanic Guy (Castelnuovo) and plans to marry him, money be damned!

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“Don’t worry about money, my love. The constant rain makes the roads very slippery, so my mechanics business is thriving!”

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Then, Guy is drafted into the army and sent off to fight in the Algerian War. A few months later, Geneviève confesses to her mother than she is pregnant. She is also worried about Guy who only answers her letters sporadically.

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“You did actually get something in the mail, but it’s possible all the wallpaper in this house has damaged your eyesight to the point that you cannot read simple letters”

 

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Roland (who may or may not have grown up a bit since the last movie where he famously made his unrequited feelings for Lola her problem instead of dealing with it on his own) is still willing to marry Geneviève despite her being pregnant by someone else. He offers security and comfort. So what should she do?

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Just try to blend in and wait for all this to blow over.

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Oh, and did we mention that all of this is conveyed to us through the medium of song? Because it is. Every single word in this movie is sung (not necessarily by the actors), and continuously accompanied by the wonderful score. Additionally, the photography and colours are so bright and vivid that you can’t help being sucked into the story.

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It’s enough to give you a toothache. But, like, a good one.

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We loved the colours, the music, the random interruptions by passers-by during Geneviève and Guy’s date, the wallpaper (we want ALL of it – we don’t care if it blinds us!), and drama queen Auntie Élise (Perrey).

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“As I keep saying, I’ll probably die soon. Most likely when you’re away. When that happens, be a dear and send all my capes to a couple of sisters in Trondheim, Norway.”

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a sort of continuation of Lola (1961), and also connected to the upcoming The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). It’s an intriguing universe filled with men befriending the mothers of young girls, and storylines that don’t always go where you expect them to. It is a universe we recommend you visit at some point.

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Gorgeous!

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What we learned: Use protection. Also, life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned. But it might be OK after all.

Next time: Topkapi (1964)