THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE
(Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie)
The great irony of Luis Buñuels popularity was that he was discovered by the very middle-classes who were so often the sacred cows of his outrage. Each of Buñuels films from Viridinia onwards became increasingly more accepted by the mainstream. Buñuel rejected such acceptance. If I was ever nominated for an Academy Award, I would refuse it he declared when Tristana was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film whereupon The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, his very next film, won as Best Foreign Language Film. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie was probably the most critically well received of Luis Buñuels films receiving a good number of other critical nominations, including winning Best Picture at that years BAFTA awards, and appearing on several of the years critics Top 10 lists.
To stand in a critical minority, my own critical praise of Luis Buñuel is reserved. For all he has been celebrated as cinemas premiere surrealist, Buñuel was never a stylist his genius never went beyond the surrealistic juxtapositions of the familiar and out of place. His work at best seemed like muted Monty Python gags. Sometimes his juxtapositions were effective his best work probably was The Phantom of Liberty (1974) but at other times were astonishingly crude. Call me a philistine but I do find Buñuel to be overrated.
The central idea of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie of a group of people going to dinner but who, through various increasingly more surreal and bizarre interruptions, never actually manage to eat anything, is amusing. Buñuel indulges his love of the foibles and hypocrisies of the middle-classes The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a parody of good-eating and manners, while the very title seems to evoke a gentle mockery of the mores of the middle-classes. As always, Buñuel is fascinated with an hypocrisy that lurks beneath polite decency a group of drug dealers condemn marijuana being smoked at a dinner party; a priest is called to administer the last rites to a dying man but, upon hearing the mans deathbed confession, realises that the man killed his own parents and shoots him. Although, if anything, Buñuel has mellowed in his old age and the surrealism is more gently amusing than satirically biting.
There is no real plot to The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie it rambles and Buñuel heads off into all manner of random sidetracks vignettes involving the Bishop, the girl revolutionary from Miranda and two different stories where soldiers recount encounters with ghosts. The film would have been far more effective if the script had been tightened and concentrated around the spiralling series of dinner invitations gone wrong and the peculiar Chinese box series of dreams that take place inside other peoples dreams.
Luis Buñuels other films of fantastic note are: his two surrealist short collabortaions with Salvador Dali, Un Chien Andalou (1928) and LAge dOr (1930); The Exterminating Angel (1962) about a group of people unable to leave a room; Simon of the Desert (1965) about a virtuous man being tempted by The Devil; and The Phantom of Liberty (1974), which contains a series of surrealistic vignettes. Buñuel also wrote the silent French Edgar Allan Poe adaptation The Fall of the House of Usher (1928) and The Monk (1972), an adaptation of the classic work about The Devil tempting a monk and drawing him down into depravity.