Thought it might be interesting to get some responses about this one. As per usual, Manoel de Oliveira is set to deliver his yearly offering of cinematic greatness (that one was for you, Barmy). This time he's made the audacious decision to give us a sequel to Belle de jour
. From the mouth of the master himself, here's his explanation:
Belle toujours occurred to me unexpectedly and, as I had the will to pay my tribute to Luis BuÃ±uel and Jean-Claude Carrière, I was happy to have found a way to do so, perhaps the best, and I started working. What is it about? Taking two of the strange characters from the film Belle de Jour, and make them relive, thirty eight years later, in the strangeness of a secret which was only in the possession of the masculine character and a knowledge that had become crucial to the female character. Thus, passed this time, they meet again. She tries to avoid him by all means. But he stalks her and eventually manages to gain her attention with the intention of revealing the secret that he alone can unfold. They set a meeting, a dinner, where she expects that all will be revealed. During dinner, she, now a widow, awaits the expected revelation: what he had told her husband while he was mute and paralytic because of a gunshot wound fired by a lover of hers. The situation is tense and she ends up in despair without being able to find out what in truth happened. He is satisfied in his sadism and in his particular revenge from the ways of that woman, who deep down desired him but whose haughty ways never allowed him to possess her.
The interesting thing here will be to see how much this movie will owe to its predecessor in terms of style, tone and theme. For despite the fact that Oliveira has often been compared to Bunuel I tend to think of it as a kind of lazy comparison (sort of like lumping all avant garde artists from the first half of the last century together under the broad label of "surrealist"). They do share certain similarities, especially in terms of the social milieu their works tend to inhabit and the value they place on irony, but their underlying life philosophies are tremendously different. Really, I think that if some people see an upper class gathering (especially around a dinner table!) in a film that also has smatterings of obvious satire, its automatically Bunelian (not meant to indicate you, bunuelian)--whatever that is.
Another interesting facet here is the very likely possibility that Belle toujours
will premiere at the Venice Fest. This is interesting because Catherine Deneuve is presiding over the jury this year and, evidently, Oliveira had asked her to reprise her role and she turned him down (it went to Bulle Ogier). Deneuve and Oliveira have worked together before and one would assume that she would be particularly excited about this opportunity. It could be that she had something else scheduled or maybe she didn't want to return to this after all but somehow that seems unlikely to me as she would probably recognize the great potential here, especially with a director she seems to admire so much. Could they have had a falling out about where Oliveira intended to take this character? Could this be a conflict of interest?
Oh, and Barmy, to countermand your presumptive comment up front, you will hopefully get a chance to attend yet another Oliveira film you will actively dislike at the NYFF this year and can report back on how everyone in the audience howled with disgust and threw their programs at the screen. Damn those autocratic festival programmers. When will they ever listen to the voice of the people?