#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)

#261 Simon of the Desert

Watched: February 23 2019

Director: Luis Buñuel

Starring: Claudio Brook, Silvia Pinal, Enrique Álvarez Félix, Hortensia Santoveña

Year: 1965

Runtime: 43 min

As attentive readers may have noticed, we have now skipped a few numbers. That is because Edgar has recently edited the list and added a few more movies to the earlier years. Hopefully, we’ll get around to watching them and adding them as soon as the Corona crisis is over. However, for now the library is closed and we just have to work with what we have. That also means that we might have to skip a few upcoming movies as well since we can’t get our grabby (and quite possibly infected) hands on them. Not to worry though – we’ll make up for it as soon as we can. For now, were just happy that the Norwegian government are taking precautions and doing their best to keep us all safe.

simon

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Disclaimer done, now on to the good stuff! Simon of the Desert is a weird one, which should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody considering Buñuel’s earlier works. Basically, Simon (Brook) is super pious. Like, really incredibly pious. And humble. Let’s not forget it. In fact, he’s so pious and humble that he disowns his own mother (Santoveña) because he needs to concentrate on God and being pious and humble.

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“Bar none I am the most humblest. Number one at the top of the humble list.”

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Still, you can’t walk around being as humble as Simon without drawing the attention of the devil him/herself (Pinal). Once you set yourself on a literal pedestal as the best person in the world, Satan will want to get in on this action and prove you wrong. But who will win? The fallen angel or the oh so pious man?

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“Don’t judge me. I was going through an identity crisis when this was filmed, wanting to be Jesus and stuff. So embarrassing now…”

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This was amazing. We loved the skipping brother Matthew/Matías (Félix), the inner monologue, the mix of time periods, the incredibly unsubtle Satan, and the coffin. Don’t ask. The film looks beautiful and some of the close-ups reminded us a lot of the gorgeous The Passion of Joan of Arc.

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Also, very topically, Simon practised social distancing before it was cool. Well done, Simon! You’re doing your part!

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Besides taking one for the team by socially distancing himself from everyone though, Simon’s pursuit of holiness and divinity seems extremely selfish and self-indulgent. He’s not really trying to save the world or anything, just himself. That being said, he does perform miracles which the villagers surrounding him take for granted so maybe he was just fed up with not being appreciated. At least Satan gave him something to focus on – Pinal is very entertaining and a lot more interesting than Simon. But then again, that is always the case, isn’t it?

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Seriously – who would you rather party with?

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What we learned: Get thee behind me Satan! And keep your distance – we’re trying not to get infected here.

Next time: The 10th Victim (1965)

#215 The Exterminating Angel/El ángel exterminador

Watched: January 05 2019

Director: Luis Buñuel

Starring: Silvia Pinal, Jacqueline Andere, José Baviera, Augusto Benedico, Luis Beristáin, Antonio Bravo, Claudio Brook, César del Campo, Rosa Elena Durgel, Lucy Gallardo, Enrique García Álvarez, Ofelia Guilmáin, Enrique Rambal, Patricia de Morelos, and just a bunch of others…

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 35min

Exterminating

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A dinner party is being thrown on Providence Street for twenty people. And some sheep. And a bear.

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Personally, we’d never even dream of attending a party without livestock

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As the party progresses, the servants keep leaving. But the guests eventually realise that they cannot do the same. They are stuck.

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Have you ever been to a party so good you cannot leave? Neither have these people. And yet…

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As the hours and days go by, the upper class dinner guests deteriorate and become more and more desperate, eventually contemplating murder to break their curse. But what is really going on?

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Honestly, we have no idea. This is above our pay grade.

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Like all of Buñuel’s movies, The Exterminating Angel requires some thought and interpretation. Which is not our forte. But we get the impression this is probably a comment on how high society deteriorates to the level of animals once the luxury and the societal structures they cling to are taken away.

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We’ll just insert this still of a herd of sheep without further comment.

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It’s a difficult movie to describe, but you should definitely watch it if you like any of the following:

  • Surrealism
  • Weird people
  • Herds of sheep
  • Strange conversations and non sequiturs
  • Chaos
  • Sacrifice
  • Baby bears
  • Impending doom
  • Comments on class, societal rules and human nature

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Or stupid people building a fire in the middle of a room with no openable windows

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We thoroughly enjoyed it! We understood absolutely nothing! You should watch it!

What we learned: You know, we would probably learn loads from this film on repeated viewings as it strikes us as the sort of movie you should really study. However, we still have 785 movies to go, so we’re gonna have to get back to you on this…

Next time: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

#100 Los Olvidados

Watched: April 28 2017

Director: Luis Buñuel

Starring: Alfonso Mejía, Roberto Cobo, Alma Delia Fuentes, Estela Inda, Mário Ramírez

Year: 1950

Runtime: 1h 20min

los olvidados

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Pop the champagne! We’ve reached number 100! And what an uplifting and optimistic film with which to celebrate. Perfect for a night of champagne and revelry, Buñuel’s Los Olvidados follows the depressing lives of a group of children (of various levels of dental hygiene) in the streets of Mexico through minor and major crimes.

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Look! They’re celebrating with us! Happy, happy happy times. Nothing bad will ever happen. La di da di da.

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El Jaibo (Cobo), recently escaped from prison, comes back to his old neighbourhood to take up his rightful place as leader of the local children, who he rallies into helping his criminal path by attempting to rob a blind street musician. Brave. Meanwhile, Ojitos (Ramírez) has been left in the streets by his father who seemingly has no plans of returning to pick up his son. The abandoned child is taken care of by Pedro (Mejía) – a good boy who’s abused at home but wants a different life for himself.

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The entire film is a laugh riot and not at all depressing as f**k…

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Another one of the kids who wants something more from life is Julian, but when Jaibo finds out he has a job and is no longer interested in petty crime he goes into a rage and kills him. Pedro, who witnesses the murder, tries to turn his life around by getting a job, but Jaibo not only screws that up for him, he also literally screws Pedro’s bitch of a mum.

Olvidados, Los (1950)aka The Young and the Damned Directed by Luis BuÒuel
“How dare he aspire to the glamourous life of a blacksmith! I must ruin this for him.”

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As a general rule, if one of the kids finds something worthwhile in their lives, Jaibo is there to tear it down. As many other criminals who recruit children, he has no prospects or ambition of his own and therefore wants to drag everyone down to his level to feel like less of a loser.

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Doesn’t get cooler than robbing a cripple

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Los Olvidados is a sad and depressing insight into lives of poverty with a very Un Chien Andalou-dream sequence (which we loved) and frustratingly little hope in the end. If we thought Ladri di biciclette was depressing, it has nothing on this. At least in De Sica’s film there was a loving family and some semblance of hope in the depression – Buñuel’s depiction is pretty much devoid of hope.

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We can’t even get into all the shit this little girl goes through

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Happy one hundred, people. We need to go look at pictures of puppies.

What we learned: This film shows the real life. It is not optimistic. Also, deprived of affection, children will look for love and approval anywhere.

Next time: Rashômon (1950)