The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie ★★★★½

Movie #6 on my Journey towards Cinephilia

Bunuel may be my favorite director. Every film I've seen from him has managed to be surreal and humorous while simultaneously packing a punch, critiquing and assaulting religious, political, and sexual norms. Most other directors would look extremely pretentious going at the subject matter Bunuel looks into, yet Bunuel succeeds due to his perfect use of humor. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is another example of how Bunuel uses humor to properly explore this dichotomy.

Bunuel's film the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie follows six upper-class people as they try to have a meal together but are foiled by several often humorous interruptions. The plot could arguably be described as a surrealistic sort of cinema verite, each scene flows into the next in a strange way, connected mainly by characters and basic idea of going to eat. In terms of plot, this film is fairly simplistic.

Bunuel complexifies this however with his fantastic use of surrealistic metaphors and dark humor. One scene in particular stands out to me as a great example of the surrealistic humor in this film. The six bourgeoisie go to a general's apartment for dinner. Something about the setting instantly seems off, it's a nice apartment, but it doesn't look lived in. Soon after it is revealed that the apartment is actually a stage and a curtain opens showing an audience watching them. A man reads them their lines, but they refuse to repeat them, eventually leaving. This scene was really powerful in emphasizing the artificiality of the bourgeoisie and the shallowness of their discussions (metaphorically through the juxtaposition of them performing artificial dialogue). This is just an example of the surreal metaphors that are throughout this film.

The bourgeoisie are characterized as shallow, assholes that do not deserve sympathy. Bunuel critiques their entitlement while exploring the nature of their existence and what the future has in store for the bourgeoisie as a whole.

Bunuel is truly a master of surrealism, where David Lynch's surrealism can be more tonal and atmospheric, it often times lacks focus. Every single surreal moment in Bunuel is utilized as a metaphor that pushes the thematic ideas of his films. In that way I find him brilliant as the surrealism in his films push his commentary past the exploration realistic films can achieve while simultaneously having visuals that are unique and interesting.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a fantastic film. I would recommend it to any fan of David Lynch or dark humor. Fantastic.