(director/writer: Manoel de Oliveira; screenwriter: inspired by the book by Joseph Kessel; cinematographer: Sabine Lancelin; editor: Valérie Loiseleux; cast: Michel Piccoli (Henri Husson), Bulle Ogier (Séverine Serizy), Ricardo Trêpa (Barman), Leonor Baldaque (Young Prostitute), Júlia Buisel (Old Prostitute), Lawrence Foster (Himself – Direction musicale); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Miguel Cadilhe; New Yorker Films; 2006)
“An ill-advised attempt to recall the wickedness of Buñuel’s original by a director who is coming from a totally different perspective in his filmmaking.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The 98-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira (“I’m Going Home”/”The Magic Mirror”/”The Convent”) presents a homage to Buñuel’s psycho-sexual S&M film ‘Belle du Jour’ that was released thirty-eight years earlier with Catherine Deneuve and Michel Piccoli. Bulle Ogier replaces Catherine Deneuve as Séverine Serizy, the innocent young bourgeois housewife who worked afternoons in a brothel. Piccoli recreates his role as the weirdo bastard Husson, her husband’s best friend who knew her secret and might have told her wheel-chair bound husband (shot by one of her jealous clients). The film is built around finding out if Husson whispered her secret into Séverine’s paraplegic husband, which he threatened to do when she refused to have sex with him on his visit to the brothel.
After not seeing each other for years, Husson spots her at a concert in Paris. She also spots him and moves quickly out of the theater to avoid him. Through a persistent investigation he tracks the widow down to a luxurious hotel where she resides and arranges a dinner date where he agrees to tell her what he whispered to her loving husband that brought a tear down his cheek. But, even though she’s a changed woman, Husson remains true to form and has his own agenda that turns out to be not what she bargained for.
The slight film is a slow-moving geriatric satire of bourgeois sexual mores. It lacks the spice, youthful attractiveness of Deneuve and sexual energy of the original. In other words, it’s an ill-advised attempt to recall the wickedness of Buñuel’s original by an artistically tasteful director who is coming from a totally different perspective in his filmmaking.
REVIEWED ON 5/27/2007 GRADE: B-