Thursday, June 16, 2005
A Different Kind of Desperate Housewife
Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour
As an admirer of Buñuel's films and an ardent fan of Catherine Deneuve, it's something of a mystery why I hadn't seen BELLE DE JOUR until tonight. It lived up to its rep as a world cinema classic. Buñuel's surrealist touches, like his ways of showing Séverine’s fantasies and frigidity, make those moments far more cinematically powerful, and humorous at times, than conventional methods could achieve. Jingle all the way, indeed.
These days "desperate housewife" is a de rigueur tag for writers to apply to any number of public figures or for those women to assign to themselves. Anne Bancroft was dubbed one in an obit mentioning her role as Mrs. Robinson. Laura Bush confessed to being one. As I continued to watch DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES in hopes of spotting the creative genius I wasn't seeing, I grew weary of the series' bloated self-importance and the increasingly cartoonish behavior, so Deneuve's Séverine, a Gallic ancestor to the women of Wisteria Lane, provides a satisfying alternative.
While it's not fair to compare one season of the ABC soap with an established film classic, BELLE DE JOUR, with the "pure", suffocating wife, is a more potent statement about the interior lives of women than the vastly overrated television show. To be certain, Séverine doesn't have much in common with the average American woman--as much due to her being French and the film taking place in the 60s--but despite testimonials by the series' creators and cast, the ladies of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES don't either, except in the most exaggerated ways.
Of course, if the right people make even a tangential connection between DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and BELLE DE JOUR, maybe the show's astounding popularity can convince someone to put out a DVD that uses a better print. The one out there now isn't terrible by any means, but 16x9 enhancement and a little cleaning up wouldn't hurt.