Monday, February 22, 2010

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

Humorous, multi-layered concoction by legendary Luis Bunuel involving the dining and living habits of several Bourgeois Frenchies. The central joke of the piece, which I won't ruin here, involves dreams, trips to dine, and the superfluous and interchangable nature of the working class in relation to the middle; the faces of servants, chambermaids, waiters, and even priests seem to blend together into a general subservient mass. Fernando Rey plays the central Bourgeois pig, an ambassador to a Central American country who uses his position to smuggle cocaine, which he reaps huge profits off of as he promotes values and moralism to his dinner companions. He is funny, but the dream-like nature of the narrative only allows him to be that, amusing, rather than well-drawn or deep, unlike his character in Bunuel's That Obscure Object of Desire, which was a tragic victim of his own mortal follies. Much of the movie is pointed satire, and it is successful, but it is only that; Bunuel's obvious hatred for the stereotypes and chariactures he is representing keeps anything of emotional resonance from occurring, as the characters are all lifeless, all-consuming drones. Still, much of what is on display is relevent in any classist society, and the satire truly does breach national and temporal barriers to make it truly relevant, even today. Bunuel's eye for imagery was in full effect, and the scenes here have a haunting, stylized quality that elevates the film, on a superficial level, from boring domestic drama.

Recommended for fans of Bunuel, French and Spanish surrealism, or satires of middle-class life. I am not currently well-scholared in Bunuel's work, having seen only this, Un Chien Andalou, and the aforementioned Obscure Object of Desire, but of the three, this is the weakest, and most superficial.

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