Luis Bunuel’s delicious comedy of errors is a direct descendant of his ferociously audacious surreal “L’Age d’Or” and his disturbingly allegorical, “The Exterminating Angel.” Like its predecessors, “Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” is a satire on the bourgeoisie, the clergy, the military, and their trivial, conformist lives.However, compared with “L’Age d’Or,” which was banned from public view, and “Exterminating Angel,” which left its audience puzzled and confused, “Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” scandalizes no one, which may explain why the film garnered unanimous critical acclaim.
Bunuel explained his relative restraint in this film in the following way: “I feel less and less inclined toward violence. Scandal and violence are no longer useful. They have lost their punch. I now say with humor what I used to say with violence.”
Bunuel’s most reliable strategy of attack has always been sark and subtle humor. “Discreet Charm of the bourgeoisie” has been described as his lightiest and funniest work to date. Bunuel does not focus upon individual actors, but chooses instead a team of six characters to carry the comedy forward like a troupe of carefully understated clowns.
And who are the characters, all played by the best Actors in Europe at the time. Bunuel’s pro, Fernando Ray, plays Don Raphael, the ambassador to France of a Latin American country named Miranda. Pual Frankeur, his wife Simone (Delphine Seyrig) and her sister Florence (Bulle Ogier) drive to the villa of their friend Henri Senechal (Jean-Pierre Cassel) and his wife Alice (Stephane Audran, wife of director Claude Chanbrol at the time).
Upon arrival, they are told that their time is wrong; the dinner is next evening. So they go to a restaurant, where the manager’s corpse is mysteriously placed on a table. They make another effort to have dinner at the Senechals, during which Alice and Henri make love in the garden, while Raphael and Francois leave, fearing a police raid. Another meal is interrupted by the arrival of a young soldier, and the last one is disrupted, when the participants suddenly realize they are characters in a stage production.
The narrative unfold as a series of dreams within dreams (told in flashbacks), and at first, it’s hard to distinguish what’s real and what’s fantasy. Like other films, reality and illusion blur into one with wickedly delicious comic results.
Thematically, the impassivity of the bourgeoisie emphasizes its rigidity and conservatism. The six characters seem to live in a social vacuum, composed of the same people, who repeat the same activity over ad over again. Their gatherings are usually marked by inane dialogue, and are often dedicated to the discussion of their taste in food.
“Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” deservedly won the Oscar Award for the Best Foreign-Language Film. The film was also nominated for Screenplay (Original) vy Luis Bunuel and Jean-Claude Carriere.
In 1972, “Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” compted against “The Dawns Are Here” from the USSR, “I Love You Rosa” from Israel, “My DEarest Senorita” from Spain and “The New Land” from Sweden.”
The Original SCreenplay Award went to Jeremy Larner for “The Candidate.”
French with English subtitles Running Time: 100 minutes