The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie

Luis Buñuel’s film is widely thought to be a film that criticizes the bourgeoisie. This is partly true, but the film isn’t a critique delivered straight to the heart of the bourgeoisie, so to speak. How could it be? There isn’t a single ‘thoroughbred’ bourgeois in the film! Instead, we have a series of characters who have adopted, or become ludicrous in their attempts to adopt, bourgeois manners and a bourgeois lifestyle. Take Rafael Acosta, ambassador of the fictitious Republic of Miranda: Rafael is a diplomat who traffics cocaine in his spare time! Neither is there the slightest suggestion in the film that Rafael’s friends are genuine bourgeois owners of capitalist corporations. The story goes that Buñuel, when asked if the film was a satire directed against the bourgeoisie, replied along the lines of, “Give me a break! What bourgeoisie are you talking about?” In fact, he apparently went further, adding that his favourite character in the film was the “cockroaches”. In that case, why do we still watch, and enjoy watching The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie almost 40 years on? Not only on academic grounds, of course, because it’s an important film in cinema history. Perhaps because its nonlinear storyline prompts us to become aware of ourselves in different ways with its interweaving of reality and dream sequences, even with its absurdities. Perhaps because of the familiar characters: ‘ordinary people’ like ecclesiastics, gardeners and drivers; husbands and wives, servants, left-wing youths, waiters, soldiers, policemen etc. And their relationships or non-relationships with one another, their talking to the face and behind the back, their comings and goings – the priest, for instance, becoming first gardener, then murderer. The long and short of it is that The Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie presents all this and more besides, combining semi-fantastic style and an appealing visual touch to make us laugh, to dazzle us. The film is one of the more beautiful thing

France
'
1972

Director
Luis Bunuel

Script
Jean-Claude Carrière
Luis Buñuel

Cinematography
Edmond Richard

Editing
Helen Plemiannikov

Production
Greenwich Film (Paris)

Cast
Bulle Ogier
Delphine Seyrig
Fernando Rey
Paul Frankeur
Stephane Audran

Music
Galaxie Musique

Awards
Best Actress BAFTA Awards
Best Director National Society of Film Critics’ Awards
Best script
Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film

Festivals
15th Festival on Wheels
AGAINST THE MOVIES