Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie

(Der diskrete Charme der Bourgeoisie)

par Luis Buñuel

France / España / Italia 1972

avec: Fernando Rey (Rafaele Costa), Delphine Seyrig (Simone Thévenot), Stéphane Audran (Alice Sénéchal), Bulle Ogier (Florence), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Henri Sénéchal), Paul Frankeur (Thevenot), Bulle Ogier (Florence), Julien Bertheau (Bishop Dufour), Michel Piccoli (Ministre), Milena Vukotic (Ines the Maid), Maria Gabriella Maione (Le Guerilla), Claude Piéplu (Le Colonel), Muni (La paisanne)

In this surrealist satire reminiscent of his earlier L'Age d'Or (1930) and The Exterminating Angel (1962), Luis Buñuel leavens his attack on class privilege with light comedy. With a narrative that interweaves flashbacks within dreams within a dream, Buñuel interrogates the absurdities of bourgeois ceremony and hypocrisy, as two well-heeled couples and their two friends, including a drug-running South American ambassador, can't conduct a dinner party in peace. Foiled by (among other things) botched scheduling, sexual desire, a theater audience, an untimely funeral, and armed revolutionaries, the sextet's inability to eat increasingly suggests a manifestation of their innermost fears, while Buñuel's repeated interruptions of the story cheekily defy movie conventions and straightforward interpretations. Eschewing both a musical score and anything resembling closure, Buñuel renders the film as unsettling as it is funny, as the bourgeoisie soldier on towards a meal they never have. Internationally acclaimed for its sharp wit and technical virtuosity, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie won the National Society of Film Critics' Best Picture Prize and the 1972 Best Foreign Film Oscar, confirming once again Buñuel's place as one of cinema's greatest experimental artists and satirists.

Lucia Bozzola, All-Movie Guide

Le charme discret est un film drôle, cela va sans dire. Mais sa nonchalance ne peut masquer sa férocité. Si la dernière œuvre de Buñuel compte désormais parmi ses plus grandes réussites, c'est bien parce que son metteur en scène, non content de moquer ou de dénoncer telle ou telle classe sociale, telle ou telle conduite ignoble ou grotesque, a encore la force de changer de style - marque d'un créateur en pleine possession de ses moyens. Délaissant aussi bien le surréalisme désormais "classique" de L'âge d'or que les récits plus linéaires et parfois directement fantastiques, il a su imposer une forme éclatée qui, par la force déroutante de ses allusions, références et impropriétés, conteste à son tour la bourgeoisie sur l'un des plans qui lui tiennent le plus à cœur : le plan formel où elle a coutume de se représenter et de se reconnaître.

Frédéric Vitoux, Positif n° 146, janvier 1973

One of Luis Bunuel's greatest and funniest films, and the winner of a Best Foreign Film Oscar, THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE is a brilliant surrealistic joke about a group of friends whose attempts to dine are continually thwarted.
[...] Although Bunuel made
DISCREET CHARM at the age of 72, it has an insouciant charm and an effortless ebullience that offers continual delight. When he was a young surrealist, Bunuel used a violent style to attack society, but by the '70s , normal society itself had become violent, so instead, he used humor as a weapon. The "plot" is a kind of reverse premise of Bunuel's masterful THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (1962), which concerned people who could not leave a dinner party, but it's merely a peg on which he hangs a deliciously absurd series of surrealistic gags and dreams to explore the main theme of all his movies: frustrated desire. In DISCREET CHARM, the dreams literally take over the whole film, as one unfolds within another until we no longer know what's "real" and what's not, although Bunuel's ultimate joke is that in film, nothing is real. The film's most savage joke may be that all these charming, attractive, and highly-paid actors, along with Bunuel himself, are part of the class that he's satirizing, as he once acknowledged that being a film director is perhaps the most bourgeois profession in the world.

TV Guide Online

Buñuel's account of the attempts of six wealthy people to sit down to dinner is the comedy of manners to end all comedies of manners. With la crème de la crème of European actors, Buñuel produces, in lieu of something edible, the secret ingredient of the bourgeois power base, which might be the desire for thwarted desire. Cuisine interruptus. As Raymond Durgnat wrote, "Their plague is not the Exterminating Angel but the Interrupting One.'La vie moderne est faite de ruptures.'" It's never the right time for sex or food—a theme that goes back to L'Age d'orbut the rituals of sangfroid continue in the face of a pot-smoking militia and terrorists at the door, the elusive leg-of-lamb and the rubber chicken, waking nightmares and walking dreams. If reality is a promise, so is consumption, and one can live on air.

Pacific Film Archive

Director: Luis Buñuel
Screenplay: Luis Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière
Producer: Serge Silberman
Executive Producer: Ully Pickard
Director of Photography: Edmond Richard (Eastmancolor)
Original Music: Guy Villette
Film Editor: Hélène Plemiannikov
Sound: Guy Villette; Luis Buñuel (sound effects)
Assistant Director: Pierre Lary
Art Direction: Pierre Guffroy
Costume Design: Jacqueline Guot
Makeup: Odette Berroyer, Fernande Hugi
Production Companies: Greenwich Film Productions [France]; Jet Film [España]; Dear Film Produzione [Italia]
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation [USA] / Fox-MGM (BRD)

Runtime: 101 min
Cinematographic process: Eastmancolor; 35mm Spherical, Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen, Panavision Cameras and Lenses Laboratoires GTC, Joinville, France
Sound Mix: Mono
Filming Locations: Studios-Cinéma Boulogne Billancourt / Paris
Release dates: 20 April 1973 (BRD)

Awards: Academy Awards 1973 Oscar Best Foreign Language Film; Nominated Oscar Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced Luis Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière // British Academy Awards 1974 Best Actress Stéphane Audran; Best Screenplay Luis Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière // French Syndicate of Cinema Critics 1973 Best Film Luis Buñuel // National Society of Film Critics Awards 1973 Best Director Luis Buñuel; Best Film

Image Transfer Review: To commemorate the director's 100th birthday (Buñuel died in 1983), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgouisie was given a theatrical re-release, and this anamorphic transfer is from the newly struck 35mm interpositive from the original negative. The source is near flawless, with fine grain well represented. Colors are not overly vibrant, but the presentation is exceptional, aside from the subtitles, which have frequent spelling errors (in the feature and supplements) which prove distracting.
Audio Transfer Review: The French mono soundtrack is clean and free from any audible artifacts, aside from some location background noise. Completely suitable for the film.
Extras Review: This two-disc set features a pair of insightful supplements, which while not overwhelming in their number, are well chosen and certainly give depth and understanding to the man behind the film.
Aside from the feature and a theatrical trailer, the first disc features a 24-minute, 1970 documentary on Buñuel, El Náufrago de la calle de Providencia (The Castaway on the Street of Providence), which is a series of home movies and interviews with director's friends and associates, assembled by his friends Arturo Ripstein and Rafael Castanedo. Here we have candid insight into the director, with clips from his home as he entertains his guests by concocting various cocktails, one of his favorite activities.
Disc two contains the recent 98-minute documentary by Jose Luis López-Linares and Javier Rioyo, A propósito de Buñuel (Speaking of Buñuel). Gathered here is a portrait of the man as told through the eyes of Buñuel's friends, collaborators, family and cast members, intercut with scenes spanning the seven decades he produced films, from his first short collaboration with Salvador Dali, the infamous Un chien andalou ( The Andulsuian Dog) in 1929, through to his final film, Cet obscur objet du désir (That Obscure Object of Desire) in 1977. This encompasses the life of the man from his childhood in Spain, through his early career in France, to his exile in Mexico and finally his return to Spain, and gives insights into his personality, lifestyle and work, which are underscored by narrative and filmed documentary from Buñuel himself. A fascinating introduction to the life of a director who always liked to color outside the lines of traditional film. A Buñuel filmography is also included.
The insert features an essay on Buñuel plus his own recipe for the perfect martini.

Jeff Ulmer, www.digitallyobsessed.com

The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie is presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, and has been anamorphically enhanced. In a word this transfer is breathtaking. It is amazing how good this nearly 30-year-old film looks. Detail is superb, colors and fleshtones are completely realistic, and amazingly grain is nearly totally absent. It looks like a newly shot film, and I wish they had included a restoration demo, as they have for other titles. The only drawbacks are some minor dirt, dissolves where they went to a different film stock. Another thing I noticed were some squares that looked digitally painted over, and then I realized that they were reel changeover marks in the upper right of the screen that have been digitally removed. Look at the end of chapter 13, about 50 seconds in to see what I mean. This would seem to indicate that at least part if not all of the print used here was a theatrical print, most likely from the limited runs this film had earlier in the year. Criterion is to be commended for what they have done to this film - the earlier video, while not quite terrible, was nothing like this.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, and it sounds perfectly fine. In one of the earliest joke credits I know of, Bunuel credited himself with "sound effects" - but he was almost totally deaf! Basically in this or any Bunuel film, especially later ones, the sound is unimportant. If you were to watch this with no sound and just subtitles it would still work fine, but since most of you will actually be listening to the track, I can tell you that it does its job perfectly well, and sounds as good as mono can. There are some minor sound effects, a few guns fired, and basically it's a very naturalistic track that supports what the film is trying to do.


The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
The Criterion Collection # 102

Runtime: 101:35 min
Video: 1.75:1/16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English • Closed Captioning: None
Features: Disc 1:El Náufrago de la calle de la providencia" (1970, 1.33:1, 24:35 min.) — a documentary on Bunuel by longtime friends Arturo Ripstein and Rafael Castanedo • Theatrical Trailer (02:56)
Disc 2: "A propósito de Buñuel" (Esp 2000, 1.78:1, 99:28) — a new documentary by Jose Luis Lopez Linares and Javier Rioyo, based on Bunuel's autobiography "My Last Sigh" • Liner notes: Bunuel's recipe for the perfect martini • Filmography • Color Bars
DVD Released: 19 December 2000 • 2-Disc Keep Case • Chapter stops: 57 • Encoding: NTSC Region Free 0 • 2 discs SS-DL+SS-SL / DVD-9+DVD-5