Luis Buñuel directs Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel and Michel Piccoli in this allegorical drama about a repressed Parisian housewife who starts working in a brothel.
A film made to celebrate, lightly degrade and examine Deneuve’s fragile, ethereal beauty. Fantasies and flashback explore why she is so outwardly repressed. Exquisite framing and costumes accentuate why that is so desirable. The reverie of an extended dirty dream pulsates throughout Buñuel’s direction. And as the forced drama and humiliation escalate towards the finale, we are never truly sure whether we are awake in a tragedy or still glossed over and blissed out in her twisted sexual fantasia. It is all gently transgressive, persuasively attacking class and gender politics without ever losing its charm and beauty. What is in that jolly chinaman’s decorative box? What are the consequences? This nicely contrasts with Deneuve’s recent The Midwife where she plays a character with few societal reservations.