****/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras A
starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviève Page
screenplay by Luis Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière, based on the novel by Joseph Kessel
directed by Luis Buñuel
by Jefferson Robbins It's fitting that a film about a woman agonizingly balanced between sexual repression and sexual freedom depicts an inner life balanced between two different periods in history. The opening moments of Luis Buñuel's Belle de jour lead us to believe it will be a period piece. In a static wide shot, a black horse-drawn coach on a country lane leisurely approaches. Two bystanders appear to root in the hedges along the path, too distant to be clearly made out: Are they peasants? Estate groundskeepers? Our eyes are programmed now to expect something Edwardian, or, more applicable to the subject matter, Victorian. Only when an automobile makes a turn in the distance do we realize the setting is contemporary. The modernity comes as a jolt, but from this sequence we will return to some kind of imagined past again and again as the heroine--a very modern woman, one whose frightened explorations map the sexual realms of our own later decades--slips between the cracks in her own mind.