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6. Belle de Jour

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Belle de Jour is a well-crafted, surreal, and taut film. Severine loves her husband, a doctor, but cannot bring herself to have sex with him. A beautiful young woman, she converts her sexual fantasises into reality. This leads her into bad company and unforeseen consequences.

Belle de Jour is a complex film about sexual inhibition, liberation, and obsession. Highly controversial, critically acclaimed, and banned in some places for its subject matter, Belle de Jour is an artistic film, that is erotic without being gratuitous. Severine (Catherine Deneuve), is a repressed, bored housewife, afraid of intimacy. Her husband, Pierre (Jean Sorel), is apparently the pefect partner - kind, loving, and understanding.

From the opening scene of the carriage ride, we see that Severine is aroused by the idea of domination and debasement, and her husband is not likely to treat her as cruelly as she might like in order to achieve sexual gratification. Her curiosity is pricked on learning that an acquaintance leads a double life as a call girl. Having thought about it Severine goes to Madame Anaïs, who runs a high-class closed house, taking the pseudonym of Belle de Jour as she has to leave each day by 5:00 pm. Her secret and her private life are threatened when a client begins to stalk her.

The ending of the film is deliberately puzzling, with at least three common interpretations.

Buñuel's masterly technical direction enables him to create a sensual and erotic atmosphere. He uses lighting effects (such as dark colors, shadow and diffused lighting) to build the emotional impact of each scene. The result is a film that is highly unsettling, erotic and ultimately tragic.

As normal with Buñuel, the message is more subtle than any factual summary could convey. Deferent viewers read different things into this film, but it certainly manages to convey unsettling eroticism without even the slightest lapse into explicit pornographic content.

The name "Belle de jour" is a sort of pun, playing on the phrase "belle de nuit", an euphemism for a prostitute. "Belle de jour" is also the name of a day lily in French, a flower that blooms only by day, alluding to the fact that Severine is available only during the day, not at night..

The film was based on a book by Joseph Kessel (10 February 1898 – 23 July 1979), a French journalist and novelist., and member of the Académie française from 1962 to 1979.

Interior shots were filmed at 1 Square Albin-Cachot, Paris 13.


More Belles des Jours

Brooke Magnanti (born 9 November 1975) is a research scientist, blogger, and writer, who, until her identity was revealed in November 2009, was also known by the pen name Belle de Jour, taken from Kessel's book. While completing her doctoral studies, between 2003 and 2004, Magnanti supported her income by working as a London call girl. Her diary, published as the anonymous blog Belle de Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl became increasingly popular, as speculation surrounded the identity of Belle de Jour, and whether the diary was real. Remaining anonymous, Magnanti went on to have her experiences published as The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl in 2005 and The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl in 2006. Her first two books were UK top 10 bestsellers in the nonfiction hardback and nonfiction paperback lists. In 2007, Belle's blogs and books were adapted into a television program, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Billie Piper as Belle, with the real name Hannah Baxter. In November 2009, reportedly fearing her real identity was about to come out, Magnanti revealed her real name and occupation as a child health scientist.


For those who have seen the Movie...

Critics and film scholars have spent a lot of time analyzing Buñuel’s mysterious Asian box that appears in one of the movie's most memorable scenes, and the buzzing noise that comes from it. We see a client showing Severine something inside a box, but we never see the contents. Severine looks very interested. Afterwards we see her under a blanket with tousled hair looking pleased with herself. Buñuel never explained the contents of the box and seemed to enjoy the confusion it caused among critics and audiences.

The answer might lie in a brief passage in Marquis de Sade’s erotic classic Philosophy in the Boudoir, where de Sade makes reference to a story told by the 15th century Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who supposedly "discovered" America. This tale involves women in Florida who made their men place “small poisonous insects in their male members until they swelled up tremendously and caused an insatiable libido.”

This assumption is supported by Luis Buñuel’s known fascination with insects which featured in many of his films, though insects are otherwise absent from Belle de Jour. Belle de Jour. The film contains other references to the Marquis de Sade’s novels, including Philosophy in the Boudoir where the story of the insects is mentioned. This is a book that Buñuel read and apparently known well.

There are other literary references in the book and film. Kessel based his female character of Séverine on the male character also called Severin in Sacher-Masoch’s book Venus in Furs. He also probably found inspiration in the erotic writings of Anaïs Nin, who must have inspired the name of the brothel in Belle de Jour (and its Madame).

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Mildly Erotic Drama

Directed by

Luis Buñuel

Produced by

Raymond Hakim
Robert Hakim

Written by

Joseph Kessel (novel)
Luis Buñuel
Jean-Claude Carrière


Catherine Deneuve
Jean Sorel and
Michel Piccoli

Music by

Michel Magne

Release date


Running time

101 min


France / Italy




Colour (Eastmancolor)

Sound Mix





Catherine Deneuve

Séverine Serizy aka Belle de Jour

Jean Sorel

Pierre Serizy

Michel Piccoli

Henri Husson

Geneviève Page

Madame Anaïs

Pierre Clémenti


Françoise Fabian


Macha Méril




Maria Latour


Claude Cerval


Michel Charrel


Iska Khan

Asian client

Bernard Musson


Marcel Charvey

Prof. Henri

François Maistre


Francisco Rabal


Georges Marchal


Francis Blanche

Monsieur Adolphe



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Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour


Belle de Jour - More Posters

Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve - Stills

Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour

Catherine Deneuve

Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour
Catherine Deneuve
Belle de Jour

Video Clips

YouTube - 2 mins 25secs - Whipping
YouTube - 6 mins - First Client
YouTube - 2 mins - Japanese Client with the mysterious box
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