The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie

1972, Movie, PG, 101 mins


One of Luis Bunuel's greatest and funniest films, and the winner of a Best Foreign Film Oscar, THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE is a brilliant surrealistic joke about a group of friends whose attempts to dine are continually thwarted.

Don Raphael (Fernando Rey), the ambassador to France of a Latin American country called Miranda, Francois Thevenot (Paul Frankeur), his wife Simone (Delphine Seyrig) and her sister Florence (Bulle Ogier) drive to their friend Henri Senechal's (Jean-Pierre Cassel) villa for dinner, but are told by his wife Alice (Stephane Audran) that their dinner was scheduled for the next evening. They all go to a restaurant, but leave after discovering the manager's corpse laid out on a table. Another attempt to dine at the Senechals is thwarted when Alice and Henri sneak out of the house to make love in their garden, and Raphael and Francois leave because they fear a police raid. Another meal is disrupted by the arrival of an army on maneuvers, and yet another ends when those gathered discover they're actually characters in a stage play.

Although Bunuel made DISCREET CHARM at the age of 72, it has an insouciant charm and an effortless ebullience that offers continual delight. When he was a young surrealist, Bunuel used a violent style to attack society, but by the '70s , normal society itself had become violent, so instead, he used humor as a weapon. The "plot" is a kind of reverse premise of Bunuel's masterful THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (1962), which concerned people who could not leave a dinner party, but it's merely a peg on which he hangs a deliciously absurd series of surrealistic gags and dreams to explore the main theme of all his movies: frustrated desire. In DISCREET CHARM, the dreams literally take over the whole film, as one unfolds within another until we no longer know what's "real" and what's not, although Bunuel's ultimate joke is that in film, nothing is real. The film's most savage joke may be that all these charming, attractive, and highly-paid actors, along with Bunuel himself, are part of the class that he's satirizing, as he once acknowledged that being a film director is perhaps the most bourgeois profession in the world. leave a comment

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