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on 3 February 2010
I once overheard the following conversation by two people behind me in an art-house cinema:
"I think I know what this film is about!"
(crossly) "You haven't been paying attention."
It wasn't "La Charme Discret de la Bourgoisie" we were watching (although I can no longer remember which one it was) but it would be appropriate to this one.
It is about a group of people who never manage to have dinner together and it is incredibly funny and satirical.
It includes a series of bad dreams, but is it all a bad dream?
Maybe the characters can't have dinner together because they don't really connect with each other, they are mostly more interested in their own preoccupations than each other, just follow the conversations between them.
The middle-class dinner party is even more of an institution in France than it is in Britain, so is it about the failure of middle-class institutions?
Is a dadaesque bit of chaos?
You will have to watch it and form your own opinions, because I don't know. I just love watching this and laughing at all the comic moments, even though I know I don't really get the joke.
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VINE VOICEon 1 July 2008
"The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" unfolds with the absurd logic of a recurrent dream, and since the DVD has been beautifully restored, one is able to dream the dream in vivid colour. Elegantly dressed guests arrive for a dinner party only to have the hostess inform them that they have come on the wrong night; thus, they keep making appointments for dinners that are continually interrupted for one reason or another--all of the reasons being as patently ridiculous as are the characters: a bishop, who arrives at the house and asks to be hired as a gardener, and then relates the story of his macabre childhood; a soldier, who arrives at a restaurant (that has run out of tea and coffee), asks to join the ladies, whom he has never met before, and relates the story of his macabre childhood; a General, who arrives with his platoon a day early at the same house with the same hostess in time for dinner, and then, after the General invites a Private to relate the story of his macabre dream to the hosts and the invited guests (who listen attentively), both General and platoon depart for maneuvers (but not before inviting all the guests to his house for dinner, where even more macabre events unfold.). Thus, the dreams contain dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams et cetera ad absurdum.

This film is for anyone who has ever had recurrent nightmares of waiting for a bus on the wrong corner; of being about to take a test only to discover that one has studied the wrong subject; of being about give a lecture only to discover that one has left one's notes at home; or of performing on stage with a mouth stuffed with peanut-butter when one's cue is coming up. All the absurd commonplaces that make perfect sense when one is dreaming. And much of the "discreet charm" of the bourgeois characters in this film derives from the fact that one is dreaming their nightmares and not one's own.
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on 23 March 2012
69uk Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie by Luís Buñuel (1972, 102')

The six main people of the film - The Ambassador of Miranda, his First Secretary with wife and niece, a non further defined bourgeois business couple (Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Bulle Ogier, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel, all very well directed) are seen in three different sequences to walk quite energetically along an empty country road, in a flat farming landscape. This scene appears three times in the film. Out of food, of transport, of purpose?

A diplomatic pouch full of drugs, neatly packed for the resellers, a young woman casually selling small mechanical pets off the sidewalk in front of the embassy. From his window, the ambassador shoots at one of the small walking toys, the woman disappears in haste, is later arrested as a terrorist. A monsignore that offers to work as a gardener. A young lieutenant, in a noble café, begs to be allowed to tell the three women his childhood story.

As Wikipedia put it: "The film consists of several thematically linked scenes: five gatherings of a group of bourgeois friends, and the four dreams of different characters. The beginning of the film focuses on the gatherings, while the latter part focuses on the dreams, but both types of scenes are intertwined." Counting and assigning scenes is a bit tricky - one could equally call it series of aborted
dinners and other interruptions - and what is real and what is a dream may not matter much from a surreal perspective.

At one stage, a group of French army officers on manoeuvres joins the dinner, leading to a counter-invitation by the French colonel. The French colonel's dining room is, in fact, a stage set in a theatrical performance, and once the curtain opens, the guests steal themselves away one by one. However, the officers very undiplomatically ask the ambassador about the state of things in Miranda: kid-nappings and murders, police brutality, drugs, corruption, poverty they have read about, which the ambassador of course all denies.

Over another dinner at the bourgeois couple's house, the police come in and arrest the lot, detain them in police jail for drug trade, but a call from the Minister of the Interior (a masterful mini role on his desk phone by Michel Piccoli) sets them free again. The film ends with another energetic walking sequence along an empty country road, neither in haste nor alarmed, but clearly into an "open" future.

69uk Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie by Luís Buñuel (1972, 102')
23 March 2012
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 February 2014
With this 1972 film, master of the surreal satire, Luis Bunuel, has a dig at pretty much all of the establishment targets that he made a habit of lambasting over his long and illustrious career - the bourgeoisie (of course) and their (historical) cohorts, namely, the church, army, police, and faceless government and diplomatic officials. What, for me, turns TDCOTB into a classic of its (relatively rare) genre, however, is primarily its script co-written by Bunuel and Jean-Claude Carrière, followed in short order by its superlative casting - essentially an ensemble of the finest French actors of the period. Its script is a true joy to behold, with its anarchic and scabrous feel following in the tradition of other great films of the genre such as the same director's The Exterminating Angel and Renoir's La Règle Du Jeu.

Bunuel's film is narrative-light, instead providing a series of vignettes built around six central (bourgeois) characters attempting to convene a dinner party (almost farce-like), but being thwarted at every turn by a chain of bizarre events (some dream, some reality). Of course, underpinning TDCOTB are issues of social class, manners and 'etiquette' as, on being 're-routed' to a restaurant for the sextet's attempted 'dining experience', Stéphane Audran's Alice Sénéchal quips, 'Cheap and no customers - that's weird', or as she and husband Henri (Jean-Pierre Cassel) take refuge in nearby bushes for a bout of pre-prandial lovemaking. French colonialism (and possibly ignorance) are Bunuel's targets as Fernando Rey's apologist, sexist ambassador to the fictional outpost of Miranda, Rafael Acosta, argues with a terrorist on the relative merits of Mao and Freud, as well as asserting. 'No system will ever enable the masses to acquire refinement'. Completing Bunuel's impressive central sextet are Paul Frankeur's aristocratic Monsieur Thévenot and wife Simone (Delphine Seyrig), and Simone's younger sister, Bulle Ogier's kooky social commentator, Florence ('I hate the cello'). Acting-wise, a mention should also be made of Julien Bertheau's brilliant performance (and Bunuel's scathing characterisation) as the pedestrian Bishop Dufour ('I had a car but I sold it for the benefit of the poor') whose 'gardening ambitions' cannot mask his lack of spirituality.

As you might expect, curious and bizarre encounters abound, as a 'tea-room' runs out of tea (and coffee, and milk, etc) and Bunuel increasingly blurs the boundary between (Freudian) dreams and reality as we are treated to the outlandish dreams of an army lieutenant and sergeant - the latter as part of marijuana-smoking army cavalry troop 'on manoeuvres' who burst in on the dining sextet in a scene which calls to mind Carry On Up The Khyber. And although the sextet's dreams become more extreme (and violent), veering between imprisonment for drug offences and a 'terrorist dinner party massacre', Bunuel's repeated (and 'unending') shot of the intrepid (and privileged) six strolling down a country road tells us that their like are not 'going away' any time soon.
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on 24 October 2000
This was the first Bunuel movie I saw and it still stays my favorite. I saw it in the movie theater and by the end 70% of spectators had left. The reason was that they were not prepared for Bunuel (It was in Gorki, Soviet Union, 1986 or 87). I wasn't either but I fell in love with the movie from the very begining. It stupid to try to reveal the plot, because there's none. If you ask me, the plot of this movie is the same as in That Obscure Object of Desire (my second best Bunuel): You can't get what you crave for. For it's not the plot that matters, it's the mood, l'ambiance. And those little things like the story about Brigadier. If you have never seen a Bunuel film, start with this one!
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on 2 October 2009
Despite the great title and the extraordinary reputation, Bunuel's DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE never quite lives up to expectations. This is late Bunuel, and like much of the work from this period there's a certain clumsiness in the execution and a reticence to offer any concrete form of meaning to a series of characteristically surreal events.

The story is in two halves. The first, revolves around a group of bourgeois friends -- all gloriously unsympathetic -- and their continually thwarted efforts to eat dinner together; the second, probes the dreams -- and dreams within dreams -- of the group, again largely revolving around failed attempts to eat. There is also a recurring image of the group seemingly, and quite obliviously, on the road to nowhere.

Of course there's much to admire. One stunning scene features the females of the group being told a tale of murder and childhood fear which moves them not one bit. Another sequence in which dinner guests realise their meal is taking place on a stage, leaving them exposed to a wider world with nothing to say, is equally brilliant. It's also, at times, very funny. And the dreams reach a disturbingly realistic pitch in their imagery. But among all this is the nagging feeling that both director and writer (regular collaborator Jean-Claude Carriere) have a series of potentially interesting ideas but no real purpose. And then, there's that awful clumsiness that in its use of real exteriors and studio constructed interiors, often leaves the film looking like a 70's British sex comedy!

All in all, a film of great moments, and worth seeing for fans of European cinema from this period. But never as powerful or brutally satiric as the director's earlier work, particularly VIRIDIANA and THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL.
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on 16 May 2011
Career diplomats and their wives try to eat together, but are constantly interrupted by circumstances.

I'm rather disappointed in it. I've seen it plenty of times and I remember it as a very good film. Watching it again for the first time in probably a few years reveals it to be merely okay, and not the minor masterpiece I expected.

The central idea of the story is interesting and Luis Buñuel finds plenty of unusual ways to derail their meals. It's just none of it is gob smackingly brilliant or inventive.

The first twenty minutes were a bit plodding and I can easily imagine the non-dedicated viewer giving up. It does pick up after the dead innkeeper sequence.

I'm inclined to say that the film keeps getting better as it goes on. Two dream sequences from minor characters in the second half unfortunately mar the film slightly. They are more to be endured than enjoyed. The army messenger's dream of meeting deceased people in a street is uneventful, pointless and boring. The dead police officer who haunts the police station is too silly and random at such a late point in the film - it's not filmed slickly enough to really work.

The surrealism has been turned up to the point where it can be a little over the top and intrusive. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just it can interfere sometimes with telling a tonally consistent story - the constant diversions of avenging dead parents doesn't really gel to perfection with the main story of people trying to eat. Much of the fantasy stuff is clunkier than I expected. You can see the joins as unconnected moments are crow-barred into scenes. I think I used to love how random and unsubtle Buñuel could be when characters suddenly started going off on surreal tangents, and all the other characters followed along. Now it looks a little messy, and a bit like bad writing. I suppose I no longer like seeing the joins between his ideas?

The movie looks okay but it's not as visually pretty as an earlier film like Belle De Jour from 1967. The sets look like sets, and the camerawork and lighting is not as elegant or ornate.

It's an enjoyable film and not hard going at all. It's just not as strong as I remember it to be. There are plenty of amusing moments in it, though it isn't as funny as it has the potential to be. It's well worth taking the time to watch it, but I can't say it's essential.
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on 29 July 2006
Fellini said that he wished to have made a film like The Discreet Charm. It's like a perfectly filmed bad dream, and it is very, very funny. Like all great works of art, there's nothing to compare it to. Except, perhaps, Bunel's Obscure Object of Desire. But that would be greedy.
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on 12 March 2015
Really funny
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