Belle de Jour

I fell in love with Catherine Deneuve in the mid-'90s, when I caught a restored print of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at Cinema 21. To call Jacques Demy's 1964 mini-opera a transformative experience would not be hyperbole. The movie, and the girl at its center, seemed to exist out of time: magical, romantic, alluring. Not long after, I caught Luis Buñuel's Belle de Jour (1967) on cable, and though altogether different than Cherbourg, the deal was sealed. Demy's film is a musical melodrama about young love; Buñuel's is a strange, chilly tale of a bored housewife turning to prostitution for thrills. Though worlds apart, they are hallmarks of Deneuve's career and defining dichotomy: Her best movies are either light love stories or disturbing psychological dramas.


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