Thursday, September 06, 2007

Belle Toujours, written and directed by Manoel de Oliveira

Jeff Shannon reviews Belle Toujours directed by Manoel de Oliveira.
What do you get when the world's oldest working filmmaker pays homage to one of the most controversial films of the 1960s? In the case of "Belle Toujours," 98-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira's tip-of-the-hat "sequel" to Luis Buñuel's scandalous "Belle de Jour," you get a slight little curio that honors Buñuel while casting off most of what made "Belle de Jour" (in which a bourgeois newlywed becomes a prostitute) the art-house sensation of 1967.

We can only speculate about what the late, great Buñuel might have made of this gently incongruous tribute, in which the tantalizing ambiguities of "Belle de Jour" are exchanged for a comparatively transparent reunion, set (like Buñuel's film) in contemporary Paris. It's here that we find the gracefully aged M. Husson (Michel Piccoli, reprising his role from Buñuel's film) still obsessing over women, especially the much-different Severine (Bulle Ogier, in the role originated by Catherine Deneuve), whom he chases around Paris before tricking her into a candlelit dinner of one-sided nostalgia and cruel manipulation.
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