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Belle de jour(1967)
Frigid Parisian housewife Séverine begins secretly spending her afternoon hours in an apartment bordello. Through her double life as the prostitute "Belle de jour," she explores closely guarded desires and fantasies she cannot share with her conventional, loving husband. Her situation is further complicated, however, when a john, an impulsive gangster, develops an obsession with her.
For more about Belle de jour and the Belle de jour Blu-ray release, see Belle de jour Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 14, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Luis Buñuel
Writers: Luis Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviève Page, Pierre Clémenti, Françoise Fabian
» See full cast & crew
Belle de jour Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 14, 2011
Spanish director Luis Buñuel's "Belle de jour" (1967) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailers for the film; exclusive new video interview with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere; new documentary feature; new audio commentary by Princeton professor Michael Wood; and a segment from the French television program Cinema. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Melissa Anderson and a 1970s interview with director Luis Buñuel. In French, with optional English subtitles. Region-A "locked".
Belle de jour is a deliciously perverse film about a very beautiful woman, Séverine Serizy (Catherine Deneuve, Repulsion), who decides to become a prostitute. She is married to a young doctor, Pierre Serizy (Jean Sorel, Una sull'altra), who dreams about having a child with her. Unfortunately for him, Séverine dreams about other things – most of them gravitating around sex and pain.
Belle de jour, however, is not a sex film. It is an erotic film that offers a fascinating look at the inner world of a woman whose actions are driven by her sexual fantasies. What happens in the woman's mind is in fact a lot more explicit and disturbing than what happens in her real life.
Henri (Michel Piccoli, La grande bouffe), and old and rather snobbish family friend, is the man who turns Séverine's life upside down. He is attracted to her – Séverine's elegance and purity inspires him - but realizes that she belongs to another man, and this frustrates him enormously. During a casual lunch, he provokes Séverine and she gathers the courage to visit Madame Anais (Geneviève Page, Mortelle randonnée) who runs a secret brothel. It is Henri's game – if you cannot have a woman's body, have her mind.
At the brothel, Séverine meets a number of different men with fantasies of their own. One of her clients is a respected professor of gynecology (Marcel Charvey, Les caïds) who likes being punished when he "misbehaves", another is a wealthy businessman (Francis Blanche, La feldmarescialla) who likes his sex on the rougher side, another is a wealthy Duke (Georges Marchal, Apocalisse sul fiume giallo) who asks Séverine to lie naked in a coffin while he pleasures himself next to her. The young woman also meets an eccentric Asian businessman with a mysterious buzzing box, which apparently is of utmost importance to him when he makes love.
The one client that gives Séverine exactly what she dreams about is Marcel (Pierre Clémenti, Porcile), a wild gangster who appears at the brothel together with his friend, Hyppolite (Francisco Rabal, Las melancolicas). He immediately falls for Séverine and demands that she spends as much time with him as possible. Eventually, he even follows her back to her home. Marcel terrifies Séverine, but at the same time turns her on immensely.
In her real life, the one where she pretends to be a loving wife, Séverine is bored. Her instincts tell her that she must be kind to her husband, and she certainly does her best. But the excitement from sleeping with strangers who can treat her as she wants to be treated proves too strong. Ashamed of herself, Séverine finally decides to tell Pierre about her double life - and ends up unleashing a string of tragic events.
Belle de jour is Luis Buñuel's masterpiece. It is powerful, unforgettable, disturbing, beautiful and stimulating – it is everything a great film should be. There are layers of social satire, comedy and stylish erotica in it that are brilliantly intertwined, forcing one into a constant guessing mode.
As it is the case with all of Buñuel's other films, Belle de jour is most effective where it refuses one the opportunity to see what those in the film can. It is a maddening, frustrating, genius technique that completely absorbs one's mind.
Buñuel's effortless blending of fantasy and reality is enhanced by the employment of exquisite colors (Belle de jour was the Spanish director's first color film since his days in the Mexican film industry). They play with one's perceptions just like the paintings of his long-time friend and collaborator Salvador Dali do.
Belle de jour Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Luis Buñuel's Belle de jour arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit 2K Datacine from a 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS, while Image Systems' DVNR was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Eddy Nakkaa/Eclair Laboratories, Paris."
Having done some detailed comparisons, I am going to assume that Criterion had access to the same master Studio Canal worked with when they prepared their Blu-ray release of director Buñuel's erotic masterpiece. This said, the two Blu-ray releases look quite different.
Compression is notably stronger and grain better resolved on the Criterion release. The daylight sequences, in particular, look far more pleasing. Close- ups also convey better depth and fluidity (compare screencapture #7 with screencapture #1 from our review of the Studio Canal release). Contrast levels have also been pushed up a bit while brightness levels have been toned down. However, the biggest discrepancies between the Criterion and Studio Canal releases are in the area of color reproduction. On the Criterion release the variety of browns and reds are far better saturated - but not necessarily more convincing, as there are selected scenes, such as the dream sequence in the beginning, where they feel too rich (the strong reds in particular). The blacks have also been corrected. Criterion have also removed a number of tiny specks and scratches that were often easy to see on the Studio Canal release. Some careful noise corrections have been performed as well, though as mentioned earlier grain is present and well resolved. Lastly, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. All in all, with the exception of the enhanced reds the rest of the adjustments are indeed very convincing, and Criterion's presentation of the film more appealing than Studio Canal's presentation. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu- ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Belle de jour Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using Audio Cube's integrated workstation."
The loseless track is excellent. It boasts a good range of nuanced dynamics and more importantly enhances the unique sounds heard throughout the film very well (the sound of Severine's heels, the mud, the whip, gunshots, etc). The dialog is exceptionally clean, stable, and easy to follow. Also, there are no sync issues or distortions to report in this review.
Belle de jour Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Belle de jour Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Stylish, sensual and thought-provoking, Luis Buñuel's erotic masterpiece Belle de jour has finally arrived on Blu-ray in North America. It is vastly superior to any previous DVD releases of the film and undoubtedly one of the easiest discs to recommend in a very long time. The supplemental features Criterion have included, however, are not identical to the ones found on the Studio Canal release, which is why fans of the film will probably want to have both in their libraries. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Belle de jour Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Blu-ray in January: Buñuel, Rosi, Honda, and Soderbergh - October 14, 2011
The Criterion Collection has announced four titles for Blu-ray release in January. On January 17th, the independent studio will release Belle de jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967) and Traffic (Steven Soderbergh, 2000). A week later, on January 24th it will release The Moment ...
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