Belle de Jour (pronounced: [bɛl də ʒuʁ]) is a 1967 French drama film directed by Luis Buñuel and starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, and Michel Piccoli. Based on the 1928 novel Belle de jour by Joseph Kessel, the film is about a young woman who is compelled to spend her midweek afternoons as a prostitute while her husband is at work.
The title of the film is a pun in French. The phrase “belle de nuit” is best translated by the English phrase “lady of the night”, i.e. a prostitute. Séverine works as a prostitute during the day, so she is “belle de jour”. It may also be a reference to the French name of the day lily (Hemerocallis), meaning “beauty of [the] day”, a flower that blooms only during the day.
It was Buñuel’s first color film, most successful, and became his most famous surrealistic ‘classic’. American director Martin Scorsese promoted a 1995 limited re-release in America and a 2002 release on DVD. In 2006 the Portuguese director, Manoel de Oliveira released Belle Toujours, imagining a future encounter between two of the central characters from the original film. In 2010, the film was ranked #56 in Empire magazine’s list, The 100 Best Films of World Cinema. Belle de Jour won the Golden Lion and the Pasinetti Award for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival in 1967. Many of Deneuve’s costumes were designed by Yves St. Laurent.