- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: French, English, German, and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- Subtitles: English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish
- Region: B
- Discs: 1
- Classification: 18
- Studio: Optimum Home Entertainment
- Blu-ray Disc Release Date: September 28, 2009
- List Price: £24.99
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An erotic and masochistic journey of self awareness and exploration of female sexual liberation, Spanish director Luis Buñuel’s 1967 film Belle de Jour, based on the 1928 Joseph Kessel of the same name, stars one of the classic beauties of the French screen, Catherine Deneuve, as Séverine a bored housewife who spends her days working as a call girl known as Belle de Jour (literally Beauty of the Day). Unable to fulfill her desires and masochistic reveries of torture and humiliation with her husband, a timid doctor who has yet to even make love to her, Séverine explores the darker side of her passions during the day, hidden away from her husband, who still sees her has pure, giving in to the prurient desires of her clientele with pleasure.
Many will know doubt see much similarities between Belle de Jour and the 1975 film adaptation of the erotic novel by Anne Desclos, The Story of O, but unlike with the latter where one can almost see O as being coerced into a life of sexual submission by dominant male lovers, in Belle de Jour, Séverine makes her own decision to submit to her sexual desires. It is a fully feminist act; even as she begins at the brothel it is the Madame who ultimately pushes her into fulfilling her commitment and giving in to her first “customer.”
But it is not without its controversies, obviously. Is Belle de Jour truly art, or simply soft porn? Is it really about sexual liberation or just more sexualization of the female; a vicarious thrill for male viewers with a classic goddess of the screen in the main role fulfilling the universal male fantasy of dominance while masquerading as a feminist call to arms?
These questions may never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction, but that Belle de Jour raises so many questions makes it a film worth watching. It switches with ease between fantasy and “reality,” leaving the viewer always a bit disoriented, uncertain. Its imagery is often artistic and symbolic, but most of all it is definitely sexy.
Belle de Jour arrives in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio in a 1080p/24 AVC/MPEG-4 video encoding. Flesh tones are natural, the source is clean and the picture looks detailed and sharp. Contrast is good with no clipping, shadow detail is solid and film grain is preserved with a consistent quality. This is a really solid effort from Studio Canal and Belle de Jour looks exceptional for a film of its age.
Belle de Jour is provided with the original French monaural soundtrack in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) configuration. The film is dialogue-driven and dialogue is intelligible. Crackle is minimal, dialogue sounds natural and sound effects are as full as can be expected given the technological limitations of the day.
The supplements on Belle de Jour are all in standard definition PAL format, so if you are not in a Region B territory and you are playing this Region B title, you must make sure that your Blu-ray Disc player is capable of converting a 50Hz signal otherwise you will not be able view these featurettes.
- The Last Script: Remembering Luis Buñuel (1.78:1; SD/PAL)
- A Story of Perversion or Emancipation? (1.78:1; 1080i/50) — Interview with a sex therapist
- Story of a Film (1.33:1; SD/PAL)
- Trailer (1.66:1; 1080i/50)
- Booklet: Analysis of the movie by Derek Malcolm, film critic of the Guardian for 35 years and now critic of the London Evening Standard
The Definitive Word
Imagine sitting down and watching two classic films in a row, the first with Brigitte Bardot and the second with Catherine Deneuve. That is what I did recently when I had to review Le Mépris (review coming shortly) and this, Belle de Jour, each starring one of the two classic beauties of French cinema — and Blu-ray definitely does them justice. Catherine Deneuve steams up the screen in Belle de Jour, easily playing the pure, virginal housewife and the sexy, desirable call girl. Just as beautiful as Deneuve looks in this film, so does the transfer from Studio Canal and Optimum Releasing. Recommended.