Bunuel’s overrated “masterpiece”

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Released September 15, 1972

CRITIQUE. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is described as in the social grotesque genre. Watching it gave me good information about how socialists view capitalists.

The rich are caricatured as adulterating, cocaine sniffing hypocrites and the Catholic Church insincere in their faith.

Capitalists are caricatured by socialists and socialists clean as they come, but The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie smacks of the pretentions of the crowd it satirizes.

What is the film about? Simply put, it is about the inconvenienced rich trying to have dinner but getting interrupted by all sorts if manner of things, thus a cinematic attempt to put them out to dry.

Artistically, the film is regarded as surreal, but I question this.

For one, the so-called dream sequences, which have the effect of waking up from a dream, are more realistic than surreal. In reality one knows what waking up from a dream is like. The art of it is to alert us to the feeling of waking up from a dream. Of course, this is extremely well done, but isn’t surreal as they have called it.

Now, the situations the rich are in you would expect there to be a certain amount of absurdity to alert us to the fact that the bourgeoisie are indeed buffoons. But the rich here behave in similar ways to everyday folk you’d find in everyday swanky groups and the plot they are in all quite believable rather than absurd if one has seen a bit of life in action.

The people in the film are interested in their surroundings and even more than interested, immersed in their surroundings. They are focused on immediate things. The so-called satire of the rich is rather a reality of ordinary people in life-like situations. The exception to this profile is the setting where the rich are sharply contrasted with the peasantry poor which is just a way of beating up the rich.

Writer and director Bunuel hones his dagger for the capitalists, and the church for that matter, in unguarded moments where it is apparent his subjects are hypocrites and buffoons. Bunuel here kicks himself in the foot by the size of his dagger and the look is rather sharp and unfair if one considers the wider reality.

Besides, the rich in this film are all rather quite likeable, apart from their sexual and otherwise liaisons, and get the best lines. Likeability is something I don’t think Bunuel was aiming for-but thanks to some nice performances and witty dialogue reflective of the actors saying it.


Country: France.

Director and writer: Luis Bunuel (1900-1983). Co-writer: Jean-Claude Carriere

Starring: Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Bulle Ogier, Stephanie Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel.

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers. Published 2022, thewritemix.blog.

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