Director: Luis Bunuel
This film ranked #28 in Time Out's list of the 100 greatest French films. Click here to see the full list.
A perverse valentine to this coolest of Gallic beauties, Belle de jour stars Catherine Deneuve as Sverine, a Parisian housewife dressed in Yves Saint Laurent, who is married to Pierre (Sorel), a handsome, dull doctor. Sverine makes fervent protestations of love but cannot, alas, consummate; instead she succumbs to theatrically erotic reveries — of being whipped by two burly coachmen, pelted with shit while wearing a diaphanous white gown, elaborately bound to a tree la St. Sebastian. When she hears of a high-class madam (Page) who operates a brothel out of her apartment, Sverine takes a day job as a classy whore servicing middle-aged businessmen.
In the age of Desperate Housewives and downloadable S&M porn, there’s little in Belle de Jour that shocks — but then, pater le bourgeois seems beside the point. The film is an act of pure fetishism, and Deneuve its willing object. The actor never looked better, a Hitchcock blond dragged into the kinky demimonde of Helmut Newton. She’s in nearly every frame, and her presence is so quietly dominant that when the camera strays to observe two gangsters, clients of Sverine’s, the absorbing tension of the film slackens — you don’t want to take your eyes off her for a minute.