Belle de Jour <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar --> (18)

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The Independent Culture

Forty years on from its first release, Luis Buñuel's inquiry into the erotic life of a Parisian bourgeoise is as darkly elusive as ever. From the shock of its opening - the sexual humiliation of a woman by her husband and his servants - the film seeks to provoke and bamboozle, turning its kaleidoscope around real life, childhood memories and fantasy.

Catherine Deneuve, beautifully dressed, is glacial and distracted as surgeon's wife Severine, though whether it is boredom or masochistic longing that prompts her to take a day-job in an upmarket brothel remains open to question. Certain sequences are pure absurdity, like the morbid client who has Severine playing dead in a coffin, or Severine tied up and pelted with mud: just whose fantasies are we dealing with here?

Genevieve Page as the brothel madam, Pierre Clementi as a dandyish gangster and the great Michel Piccoli as a cynical friend all contribute to its atmosphere of perverse bewitchment, but it's Deneuve's impassivity that rings the strangest Belle.

Released 29 December