April 18, 1968 [Belle de jour]

Catherine Deneuve is not wearing "foundation garments"--how could she, in a movie like Belle de jour, with no foundation itself, floating just above Belle's mind--dirty with cow dung, but hoping for an answer. But none is forthcoming in this fleshy fable, Luis Buñuel, that old surrealist, jumping from a scene just when it hints at meaning, brushed aside for another moment waiting to pop in like a guest assured he's welcome.

The movie begins with a daydream of degradation-as-relief, the pressure of the little narrow bed lifted like Belle. But she does not feel lifted, not until the big Oriental man shows her the Mystery Box--something inside buzzes like a bumblebee happy in a honeypot--I will leave the implication obscured, like the scene itself--but afterward Belle finally smiles, stretches like a pet cat.

--and is this where things are heading? The plaything kept in the not-quite-cold champagne room? But what of the final scene, her straight-arrow husband ruined like Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, needing her strength and support?--or not, as the good friend comes in to tell the blind cripple that his wife's a whore? But the carriage-bells start to jingle again, as they did at the start when Belle dreamed of being beaten for needing no foundation--instead just needing a glimpse of what's she's got hidden under there.

She is neither rewarded nor punished for peeking. Belle finds her own version of "the life of the mind"--being in a Buñuel movie is an excellent opportunity for such discoveries--and I think she smiles; I can't remember because the jealous little creep with the funny teeth haunts the background, making me wonder what cottage in the woods Belle might enter next.


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