Severine (Catherine Deneuve) is a listless haute bourgeouise wife with a secret afternoon life of prostitution. Her life twists repression and guilt together with uninhibited behaviour, strangled libido with its liberated counterpart. Luis Bunuel was catapulted into cinematic history by his groundbreaking Dali collaboration, Un Chien Andalou, in 1929, but it is Belle de Jour (1967) which inaugurates the extraordinary late phase of his work. It is a film shimmering with reflections on truth, fiction and fantasy, in addition to caustic social insight, as it tells the story of a woman clearing her mind, perhaps, of its ghosts.
Michael Wood is Charles Barnwell Straut Professor of English at Princeton University. He is the author of three previous books, most recently The Magician's Doubts, an acclaimed analysis of Nabokov's works. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.