2 April 2018 02.25am
Belle de jour 1967
A Luis Buñuel Film
Watching Belle de jour (1967) last night was not the experience I had hoped for. In fact, it was the opposite: sad, awful, terrible, horrible and despicable. Good filmmaking skills were evident left, right and centre. But depressing in an overwhelming way. Sometimes the space a viewer is in when they see a film pollutes or refines their understanding of the film. I think I was in that space last night.
These last ten or eleven days have been spent living in the land of the movies of Luis Buñuel, whose life since he was sixteen or seventeen, has been to undermine Christian faith (and degrees of what is acceptable in our different lands under the title, ‘Law and Order’), in all of his films. Raised in a Jesuit school and faithful in attendance of Mass, at some point something happened, which I don’t know about, which changed it all, turning him into a man who tore down every sacred thing he’d been taught. I’ve watched six films (seven now) in the last eight days (nine now) where Buñuel tears down everything that is good, right, honest and decent, and I’ve then written about them.
This was sad because I wanted something better for Catherine Deneuve and her character. It is strange how a feeling for an actress or a character can overwhelm the qualities a film has to offer. It happened last night. I wasn’t disgusted in Godard’s Vivre sa vie (1962). Not even a little. It was like a documentary. But in Belle de jour, having just seen her as the innocent in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), I found I was projecting some kind of fantasy on to the actress and the character, based on a different light in which I came to an understanding of who she was – the actress, I guess – and what I think I’m saying.