BELLE TOUJOURS
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
In his nineties, Manuel de Oliveira is one of the
oldest working film directors in cinema history.
is an "homage" to the great Luis Buñuel and his
frequent collaborator, screenwriter Jean-Claude
Carrière. Riffing on the 1967 erotic drama
BELLE
DE JOUR
, de Oliveira has taken a supporting
character -- Michel Piccoli's venal Henri Husson
-- and moved him  center stage in
BELLE
TOUJOURS
.

For those unfamiliar with the original, or who
may have forgotten, Husson was the friend of a
doctor whose wife (portrayed by Catherine
Denueve) was something of a masochist and
who ended up passing her days working in a
high-class brothel in Paris. Husson would overtly
make his interest in the wife known, until he
discovered her at the brothel. She agreed to
sleep with him, but he rejected her because she
had lost her allure. At the end of the original
film, he paid a visit to the doctor, now an
invalid after an accident, and spoke to him. The
audience was left to decide what, if anything,
he revealed about the wife's extra-marital
activities.

Set in the present, nearly 40 years after the
events of the original film,
BELLE TOUJOURS
opens with Husson at the symphony and spying
Séverine (Bulle Ogier stepping into Deneuve's
pumps; the latter reportedly turned down the
opportunity to reprise the character). He
attempts to catch up to her, but she appears to
be aware that she is being followed and evades
him. He enters a bar she has just left and
strikes up a conversation with the bartender,
trying to gather information. It soon becomes
clear that de Oliveira is not out to rekindle the
sex and sadism of the original, but to explore
the effects that time has on memory and desire.

Eventually, Husson and Séverine meet on a
Parisian street and she reluctantly agrees to
meet him for dinner -- on the condition that he
reveal to her what he told her husband. At the
meal, Séverine constantly points out that she is
not the woman she once was (which carries
double meaning given the fact this IS a different
actress). Husson, for his part, doesn't seem to
notice or care. He is caught up in his own
fantasy based on their youth.

BELLE TOUJOURS is a minor key companion
piece to the original film and would make a
great double feature evening either in theaters
or at home on DVD.

      
Rating:              B -
Running time:    68 mins.
L to R: Bulle Ogier as Séverine and Michel Piccoli as
Husson in
BELLE TOUJOURS

© 2006 Courtesy of New Yorker Films