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Belle de jour(1967)
Forty-two years after it was first released, Luis Buñuel's story of an affluent and frigid housewife who acts out her masochistic sexual fantasies by taking a part- time job at a Paris brothel spending her afternoons exploring exciting escapades is still one of the the most provocative films you'll find.
For more about Belle de jour and the Belle de jour Blu-ray release, see the Belle de jour Blu-ray Review
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviève Page, Pierre Clémenti, Françoise Fabian
Director: Luis Buñuel
» See full cast & crew
Belle de jour Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 4, 2009
Based on the novel by Joseph Kessel, Luis Buñuel's "Belle de jour" (1967) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. Amongst the special features on the disc are an audio commentary with P.W. Evans, Professor of Film at Queen Mary, University of London, the Spanish documentary "The Last Script", two featurettes, a trailer, etc. Region-B "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 its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Luis Buñuel's Belle de jour arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
This is a very strong transfer that will please a lot of you! Contrast is lovely, detail excellent and clarity pleasing. Aside from some minor pulsations that I noticed popping up here and there, the color-scheme is also pleasing. Blacks and reds in particular are much stronger than those seen on the SDVD release of Belle de jour included in "The Luis Buñuel Collection" the British distributors released quite some time ago. Edge-enhancement and macroblocking are most definitely not a serious issue of concern.
The grain structure of the film is intact. Many of the close-ups, for example, reveal terrific organic qualities. There are no traces of excessive DNR filtering. This being said, I must note that this is not a freshly restored transfer – there are quite a few specks popping up here and there as well as a few scratches. Still, this is one very strong release, which most definitely deserves your attention. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" disc. Therefore, unless you have a native Region-B or Region-Free player, you won't be able to access its content).
Belle de jour Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are four audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: French: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. I opted for the original French track.
The French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is of excellent quality. It reveals qualities that I never noticed on my R2 SDVD. Many of the unusual sounds Belle de jour is known for are indeed very easy to hear now. The dialog is crisp, clear and very easy to follow. Additionally, there are absolutely no disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings. Simply put, the French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is very convincing.
I quickly tested the English and Spanish dubs to hear how they compare with the French track, and I must admit that they are in fact quite good – the dialog certainly is very easy to follow. Still, I strongly recommend that you opt for the original French track.
For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, German, Spanish, and Swedish subtitles for the main feature. They are white and just as I like them – not too big.
Belle de jour Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: The supplemental features on this disc are PAL-encoded. Therefore, if you reside in North America, or another region where PAL is not supported, you must have a Region-Free player capable of converting PAL to NTSC, or a TV set capable of receiving native PAL data, in order to view them.
Booklet/case - Optimum Home Entertainment have provided a lovely 20-page booklet. In it, you will find a very informative essay by Derek Malcom (film critic of the Guardian for 35 years and now critic of the London Evening Standard. He is Hon. President of FIPRESCI, the international film critics' organization and president of the UK Film Societies). The actual Blu-ray disc is housed in a very elegant case.
The Last Script - an enormously informative Spanish documentary focusing on the life and work of Luis Buñuel. I strongly recommend that you find the time to see it. Subtitled in English. (PAL, 94 min).
A Story of Perversion or Emancipation? - a French sexologist Dr. Sylvain Mimoun discusses the controversial nature of Belle de jour. Subtitled in English. (PAL, 29 min).
Story of a Film- this is the old French documentary that was available on the R2 French SDVD release of the film. It focuses on the different characters in the film, their strengths and weaknesses. Subtitled in English. (PAL, 30 min).
Audio Commentary - P.W. Evans, Professor of Film at Queen Mary, University of London, who has written extensively on Luis Buñuel and his films, delivers an enormously informative and entertaining commentary.
Trailer - Subtitled in English. (PAL, 3 min).
BD-Live functionality -
Belle de jour Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I am very pleased with this Blu-ray release! There are a couple of minor issues in the video department that could have been addressed (a few tiny flecks here and there), but, overall, Belle de jour looks fantastic in high definition. On top of that, the disc also contains some excellent supplemental features. Well done, Optimum Home Entertainment! Very Highly Recommended.
Belle de jour Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Studio Canal Collection Gets Detailed - September 16, 2009
Our British mates of DVD Times have listed the full release details of seven titles that Optimum Home Entertainment is releasing on Blu-ray on September 28 under the "Studio Canal Collection": 'Belle de jour', 'The Deer Hunter', 'The Elephant Man', 'Last Year In ...
• Optimum Unleashes Blu-ray Deluge - June 2, 2009
Optimum Home Entertainment has added nearly forty catalog titles to its Blu-ray schedule, for release between July and September 2009. Titles run the gamut of genres, from Hong Kong martial arts to European arthouse classics, and more Luc Besson than you can ...
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