Although a wholly captivating and unforgettable movie, it might be fair to say that Belle de Jour is not the sort of film that benefits from brief plot summaries.
If one were to give such a boiled-down representation of the story – a married woman, Séverine (played by Catherine Devenue) begins employment at a brothel while being unable to be intimate with her own husband – the recipient would be likely to think that it were nothing than a cheap, erotic film. And who could blame them? It certainly sounds like it. And yet, there is so much more to find in here.
Far from being a gratuitous sexploitation movie, Belle de Jour takes the focus off of Séverine’s new-found day-job and instead focuses on the emotions, psychological forces, delusions, and masochistic tendencies that have led her there and how these impulses affect those around her. More than that, the film is treated with a brilliant touch of surrealism and strategic vagueness that gives the overall picture an irrepressible allure – almost akin to that of a somewhat off-kilter and oddly foreboding dream.
Simultaneously displaying rare portraits of beauty, tragedy, sexuality, and fear, “Belle de Jour” is an essential piece of art house cinema that can not easily be forgotten.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5