Sunday, 30 September 2007

Parisienne Walkways

I saw Belle De Jour this week, not the ITV2 drama which has now been retitled The Secret Diary of a Call Girl in case any of the potential viewing demographic might be put off by a title that doesn't immediately describe the programme content, the Luis Bunuel film with Catherine Deneuve who I of course remember most fondly for picking up Goths in a New York club with David Bowie in the middle of a surprisingly under-populated Bauhaus gig.

It's a curious film and like the only other classic French film I've seen recently Godard's A Bout De Souffle (which disappointingly turns out not be about a souffle at all) seems to have a curious fascination with gun-toting low rent crooks on the streets of Paris, coupled with Serge Gainsbourg's Bonnie and Clyde this all leads me to presume on the scantiest of evidence that American scuzz was terribly hip at the time in Paris (and the New York Herald Tribune seems to have sold well on the streets too).

The central character of Belle De Jour, Severine is a woman who fantasises about being punished and humiliated, though, like the prostitute's client in the film who pays to be chastised as an unworthy servant, she clearly wishes to maintain control of the humiliation fantasies too. It all seems psychologically plausible enough, though one scene in which she is asked to impersonate a grieved over corpse feels to have slightly different well springs, perhaps the narcisism in the desire to be shamed, and feels it came from a different film or a very different person's fantasies (apparently Bunuel's film incorporates fantasies of real women into the narrative).

However, the sexiest thing in the whole film about sexual fantasies is Catherine Deneuve fully dressed, in buttoned up Yves Saint Laurent outfits, in particular there's a great double breasted red jacket and a grey coat like a cut down Russian army uniform that she wears with a knitted hat shaped like an Astrakhan but that thankfully doesn't look like it involved the same cruelty to produce (if you don't know about Astrakhan hats look it up). That sense of buttoned up, held in control style, coupled with Deneuve's cool slightly hard beauty, is far more interesting than her in her scanties allowing dirty, scarred, broken-toothed petty criminals with holes in their socks to writhe over her (see how degraded she allows herself to become!).
It's not really a particularly great film but it does leave gaps in the narrative and ambiguities for you to ponder after it's gone which you rarely seem to get in the well-constructed narratives of today.

I guess that's why I've not bothered with ITV2's The Secret Diary of a Call Girl too, even the title seems engineered to avoid difficulty.
To speak metaphorically, I'd rather see Deneuve dressed up and be left with questions than Piper dressed down and left with none, and obviously as a Doctor Who fan I love Billie (or rather love Rose and Honey to the Bee I'm not that weird), but there are certain arenas where letting it all hang out are much less interesting than keeping it all under wraps, and this is one of them for me.

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