Belle toujours

Director: Manoel de Oliveira

Portugal / France| 2006| 70 mins

This sly, witty work by Portuguese master Manoel de Oliveira (soon to celebrate his 98th birthday) revisits Luis Buñuel’s 1967 classic Belle de jour, or at least two of its characters, marvellously played by Michel Piccoli and Bulle Ogier (in the role originated by Catherine Deneuve). Henri (Piccoli), long ago rejected by Severine (Ogier), is now in possession of a secret that she is anxious to learn. The erotic cat-and-mouse game they play across Paris results in a delicious comedy of manners. There is also a wonderful, gracious freedom in the tribute that one major film director pays another: Oliveira captures the wry perversity of Buñuel’s late style, while bringing his own unpredictable, worldly spirit to the table. Oliveira’s Belle toujours is very much its own film – not a shot is wasted and at an hour and ten minutes it is an unexpectedly moving and sweet elegy on ageing, sexuality and the power of cinema.

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