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A beautiful young housewife (Catherine Deneuve) satisfies her masochistic fantasies by working as a daytime prostitute in Luis Buñuel's chic, shocking and wittily surreal comedy.
Unavailable for almost two decades because of rights problems, Belle de Jour emerged from its long absence in the mid-nineties looking as chic and shocking as when it first scandalized the bourgeois world. Catherine Deneuve, fresh from her triumph in Jacques Demy's films, plays Séverine, a middle-class Parisian wife who seems to have the perfect husband: solicitous, successful, and kind. But the bored bourgeoise daydreams about degradation, and finds it in a brothel where she spends her afternoons as fetish and fantasy object to an assortment of strange clients (including the famous Japanese with the mysterious box). Séverine's fantasies of humiliation escalate until she (and we) can no longer tell illusion from reality. The coolly beautiful Deneuve, who has never seemed blonder, is an object of desire whose very remoteness, coupled with Buñuel's serene tone, only amplifies the film's perversity. (Chaste precision provides the kick in Buñuel's kinkiness.) "A perfect film" (J. Hoberman, The Village Voice).