Edgar Cochran’s review published on Letterboxd :
Ahhh, yes... Luis Buñuel. This genius actually made a sequel of the events that were depicted in the supposedly unintentional dark comedy El Ángel Exterminador (1962), one of the best Mexican masterpieces ever made. Perhaps it was the disappointment he felt after directing that surrealist gem without taking it to the extreme events he wanted to show because of the lack of means what motivated him to make one of the best surrealist movies ever committed to celluloid: Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie. This revolutionary French manifesto still attacks, degrades and depicts the bourgeois class in the most honest and truthful manner, upsetting the conventional moral code and resorting to extraordinary sequences of pure absurdity. However, his attention to detail and the complex plot web make of this movie a comedy in the strictest sense of the word. Considering his past magnum opuses, it is not a repetitive concept. It still works, it sill makes laugh hard, only this time, he applies a very strong signature, a sign that would lead the audience to think that this was supposed to be one of the director's last works. It was. It still is a revolutionary concept and an audacious portrayal of liberalist ideas that shatters the moral of the modern society and lowers the dignity of the bourgeois class to a repugnant, hilarious level.
The characters we left in El Ángel Exterminador (1962) are now living in Paris. Also, their numbers have been reduced. We now deal with six protagonists whose constant attempts of having dinner together are endlessly interrupted by a bizarre sequence of real and imaginary events within dreams within another complex web of dreams. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, winning the award. It was nominated for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Produced or Published, unfairly losing it against The Candidate (1972).
In Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie, we are offered an extraordinary cast with wonderful performances that play the roles of extremely retarded, snobbish, socially eccentric, morally racist and unbelievably stupid and perfectionist characters. However, it is impossible to hate them. The abundant defects of their respective personalities form a huge monster that could symbolize the totalitarianism of the Catholic Church and the structure of a governmental dictatorship when put together. They are part of a societal monster that slowly eats the guts of the remains of the positive moral conducts. Even so, the delusional events they are found in, the absence of total credibility one as a cinematic viewer may have towards the spectacular events they go through, and the bizarreness of their dreams explode in a cataclysmic outcome of hard guffaws. These sequences are not meant to be taken seriously, nor analyzed in their most literal form. In the same way, the characters are not meant to be important. Nothing around their environment, an environment that consists in tiny little worlds of mansions, snobbishness and ego, is taken seriously by them; nor should we. The complexity of the mind and the subjectivity of the dream realm are the motor that deliciously emphasize the idiocy of their attitudes and the sphere that encapsulates them from living in an honest and respectful manner. In El Ángel Exterminador (1962), their physical antagonist was a room inside the mansion. In this case, the antagonist does not possess a physical form. It has a deeper meaning that explains their utter incapability of bringing down those mental barriers that cause them to be so narrow-minded.
Of course, one element is missing in this delicious satire. They need a motive, an objective that must be constantly interrupted in the most ludicrous way possible. That is the purpose of the dinner. Murder, sex, the lack of coffee and tea, a randomly traumatized soldier who tells his story, a schedule misunderstanding, arrests, the death of a restaurant's manager and other ridicule factors are the ones that end up affecting either the small delicacy of a female protagonist or the food ambition of another male protagonist. Fernando Rey plays the role of the ambassador of Miranda whose name is Don Rafael Acosta, a delusional and self-centered man whose main priorities are the defense of his country despite his dependence on lies and socialism, and to always eat expensive meals. When either his persona or his country is attacked, he immediately arrives to the conclusion that he does not particularly fit in the group of people he is currently having a reunion with. Another comical aspect is the idolization of religious images and how the Catholic Church constantly assumes the role of God performing their own justice, a justice that may not concord with God's will, forgetting they are also humans and sons of God. This is especially highlighted in a scene where a bishop, under the excuse that the church is under constant modifications, asks for the position of a gardener. When he sneaks into the garage and wears the clothing of the gardener job he wants, he is kicked out of the house. However, when he changes to his bishop clothes, he is offered respect and welcome. Once again, the bourgeois class is disguising their horrendous beings with false signs of education towards wealthy social classes and a polite vocabulary, all of this handled with a brilliant sense of humor by Buñuel.
This wonderful auteur is back in his second last surrealist and mindless journey. One cannot deny the brilliance of relativity that Buñuel, after understanding such concept, applied to Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie. Comedy is based on an exaggerated depiction of the defects of man. Comedy appeals to audiences. That is why Viridiana (1961) was banned by authorities. That is why El Ángel Exterminador (1962) was wrongfully criticized. That is why L'Âge d'Or (1930) was forgotten for several decades. It lacked more childish humor so that wealthy social divisions could vociferate "OK, it is a spoof. We may laugh with the film." Moreover, censorship has been under constant modifications, although it still is a problematic factor in the process of filmmaking with evident financial reasons behind. Luis Buñuel is an expressionist. The screenplay he made in collaboration with Jean-Claude Carrière allowed him to exploit the universally accepted moral standards through fully-developed and painfully realistic characters, combining the twisted humor hidden behind a torture scene with a rare mixture of urban, ghostly myths and an orgy of falseness, while the characters blindly think they are walking in a straight line and will get to the end of a path full of flowers and a nice weather. The truth is that they will never arrive to a certain place. The path, full of little obstacles that attract their attention and keep delaying them, will keep going on and on and on... They will never be capable of taking a smarter detour, not to mention a more convenient transportation vehicle.