The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972); Dir. Luis Buñuel

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4 Responses to The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972); Dir. Luis Buñuel

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972); Dir. Luis Buñuel | The Sheila Variations --

  2. Todd Restler says:

    Hi Sheila,

    So glad you pulled all these images from this film- it’s one of my all time favorites. The hand reaching for the meat! I only started getting into Buñuel a few years ago, and think his films are just brilliant. This happened to be the second one of his I saw after Un Chien Andalou, and it pretty much blew me away. Certainly his movies are unlike anyone elses’, and declare themselves with a personal stamp as much as any director I can think of.

    This one is so disorienting at first, as I was trying to piece together some sort of narrative. The moment when I realized I was in the presence of greatness occured fairly early on. A few of the women are in a restaurant, waiting for one of the countless meals that never come throughout this film, when a young soldier walks over. He introduces himself out of nowhere, says he has something to say, and launches into a crazy story. From Wikipedia:

    “While they are waiting, a soldier randomly tells them about his childhood, and about how after the death of his mother, he was educated by his cold-hearted father. The soldier’s mother (as a ghost) informs him that the man is not his real father, but in fact, killed the soldier’s father during a duel over his mother’s favor. Following his ghost mother’s request, the soldier poisons and kills the ruthless culprit.”

    This story is told in flash back, and what’s amazing is that as random as it is, it completely sucks you in as its own little movie. Like, within the first ten seconds. It’s kind of like the opening (equally brilliant) scene of the Coen’s A Serious Man. It’s like Buñuel is saying, “Okay, this movie is random so far, try this out. I can do whatever I want to you and your emotions, and you’re powerless to stop me. ” It’s like storytelling showing-off. I’m watching this, and I’m nervously caught up in this soldier’s story, and I’m surprised that I’m caught up in it, and I’m analyzing that reaction, all at once, and I realized that this Director was a goldmine.

    Thanks for bringing some attention to this Master, capital M.

  3. Nick says:

    Ashamed to admit I have not seen this film, although from seeing these photographs, I think perhaps I have a sense of it. Not long ago, a friend and I exchanged a list of films for the other to see—he’s one of those guys who actually harbors a prejudice against American films, especially those made before his birth (when time began, you know). Discreet Charm is on the list he gave me, so I will see it soon.

    However, I am reminded of Whit Stillman’s reference to the film, in his own film Metropolitan:

    CHARLIE: Do you know the French film, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie? When I first heard the title, I thought, “Finally, someone’s going to tell the truth about the bourgeoisie.” What a disappointment! It would be hard to imagine a less fair or accurate portrait.
    SALLY: Of course, Bunuel’s a surrealist—despising the bourgeoisie’s part of their credo.
    NICK: Where do they get off?
    CHARLIE: The truth is, the bourgeoisie does have a lot of charm.
    NICK: Of course it does. The surrealists were just a lot of social climbers.

    (Impertinent, I know, but I thought it was funny. Stillman is perhaps not for all tastes, but I love his films)

  4. sheila says:

    Todd –

    // This one is so disorienting at first, as I was trying to piece together some sort of narrative. //

    I had the same experience. Okay, so this merry band of bourgeoisie keep trying to sit down to dinner, and keep failing. But even that wasn’t clear right away. By the time there was the scene in the restaurant (the first one – where there is the dead guy in the back room), I was in love with the movie, even though I was also trying to piece it together. And yes, the soldier coming over, uninvited, and saying, “May I tell you about my tragic childhood?” It reminded me of the divergent paths that John Irving takes in his novels sometimes, where you read someone’s short story they wrote in a class, a total interruption of the narrative. But then, of course, that IS the narrative. I love it that it REQUIRES you to succumb to it. That little mini-movie of the soldier’s childhood seems to be a tangent, and I love how suddenly we’re in a horror movie, a ghost tale, with the pale hand coming out of the closet … and my need for a linear narrative (which isn’t that strong actually) had to just chill out, and succumb.

    I love the dreams that we keep going into throughout. We don’t even know we’re going into dreams (phone call for Christopher Nolan) … although we may suspect after a time … For instance, I think my favorite scene is when they all go to the Commander’s house for dinner, and they are baffled by the fake chickens put on their ghostly-looking table … and then, strangely, lights come on, a curtain pulls back, and there’s an audience sitting there, watching them up on a stage. Horrifying – an actor’s nightmare. “I don’t know my lines,” hisses one of them.


    I find the movie very funny. Even the swooping camera moves and strange weird closeups are funny.

    Thanks for commenting! I love talking about this movie!

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