Belle Toujours

The best film critique is film itself. Oliveira created a loving homage to Buñuel's Belle de Jour by updating it, parodying it, and destroying it. “I'll tell you a story that didn't happen,” says Michel Piccoli's Henri Husson, still salacious after all these years, to a young bartender. In a concert hall, Henri has espied belle Séverine (now Bulle Ogier, luminous in white-blonde wig), and he seeks to draw her into his aged web. She's still not interested; in fact, she's convent bound. When he shows her a well-known artifact from her former illicit life, well, it's just another mysteriously buzzing lacquer box. Even the odd surrealist chicken can't raise a squawk. Oliveira positions his parable as an entr'acte, of sorts, between a concert performance of Dvorak's symphony and nocturnal lights striking off the Eiffel Tower. With age, bodies shrivel and go soft; desire wanes, if, for some, proclivities don't; for others, the desire to desire goes, and good riddance. But some things never age: Paris. Music. And cinema . . .

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