16 November, 2008

Belle toujours (2006)

Rings a Belle?

So, we're 39 years on, and someone decided to provide a follow-up to the classic cult film from Luis Buñuel, Belle De Jour (1967), without Catherine Deneuve returning to the role of Severine that she made legendary.

Instead of Bunuel's surrealism, we are shown how people change. Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli, who was in the original) spots Severine (played now by Bulle Ogier) at an elegant opera house, and his curiosity is sparked. How has her life moved on after the torturous events of four decades ago when she was secretly a prostitute at a high-class brothel?

Henri, who was the man who planted the seeds of Severine's downfall years earlier, begins to pursue his quarry relentlessly - Severine does everything she can to avoid him, but the inevitable happens and, over a candle-lit dinner, the two old would-be lovers recall their "wickedness" and choose whether or not to reveal their darkest secrets. Husson quickly discovers, however, that his psychological games are no longer effective...

In fact, while purists may blanche, 98-year-old (!) director Manoel de Oliveira (Romance de Vila do Conde (2008)) has made the right choice in replacing Deneuve with Ogier - Husson's advances towards Severine, despite his own years, are still anything but gallant, with their meeting once again not serving as a renewal or conclusion to their passion, but rather, to turn the knife in the wound of their previous 'misdemeanour', due to mischievousness, or an urgent need to be reassured on both their parts, as De Oliveira plays out the cat-and-mouse game in Paris's fashionable districts.

An interesting experiment.

Awards: Michel Piccoli was nominated as Best Actor in the 2007 European Film Awards.

70 mins. In French.

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