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In 1967’s Belle de Jour, Catherine Deneuve plays Séverine, a frigid bourgeois wife, who makes all excuses to avoid sexual contact with her respectable husband, at the same time harbouring wistful daydreams about being whipped by brutish coachmen.
But the rest of the cast more than compensate and there are compelling performances from musical star Terry Skelton, television actor Pearl Catlin and Robert Crewdson as Neville, the inscrutable magazine boss.
In this postwar short for the Ministry of Health (available on the BFI Player and on the BFI DVD The Birds and the Bees), director J. Holmes, who was instrumental in the development of the story documentary, draws on the quintessential ingredients of ‘women’s films’ to ram home the message that marriage and motherhood are the right path to follow.
What’s curious here is that while contemporary commercial features would have necessarily deployed a clever euphemistic device to skirt around the unsavoury medical issue at hand, this pithy but potent family drama addresses it head-on, much to the dismay of poor wayward Joan.
Between those, The Lickerish Quartet was a fascinating anomaly, the furthest Metzger would venture into art cinema (Borges, Pasolini, Pirandello and Resnais were all acknowledged influences) while still keeping a beady eye on his target market.
The premise concerns a bored middle-aged couple and their surprise encounter with a young woman who’s the living spit of an actor in a stag film that they’ve been watching to unsuccessfully spice up their marriage.