The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
I'm not fan of Luis Buñuel, but maybe that's because I've only been exposed to his older movies. Cerebral, experimental, and insane...things like "L'Age d'Or" or "Un Chien Andalou" where nothing matters and the rules are made up. But then there is "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" which parades around, dressed in its own decadence with a wit fit to kill and a style that will make you scream with happiness.
The first half of the movie, nay, most of the movie is eaten up with the main characters pissing away time. They flit and flirt and drink and socialize and eat and meander and gossip and drink and smoke and chat and the camera takes notice of all of this. They aren't harmful people, not the grotesque upper class that we've come to expect from movies concerning the stratification of the classes, instead, they just seem unconcerned with it all. That's their right, they are after all, non-plussed.
Although the movie may seem plotless, the screen time is eaten up with situations that make commentary if nothing else. We see how these people are concerned with horoscopes, their gardens, but also they are not cruel. They offer their services to the military— Buñuel's opinion on the military is something else entirely, but that's for another day—and put themselves in a state of hosting for their friends many, many times.
They are casual bed fellows and affair of the body are taken with grains of salt. We are shown some infidelities, but we really don't care because something becomes quite clear: these people do have a discreet charm of sorts.
We'd love nothing more than to break bread with them, to walk down the street with them hand-in-hand, to gossip about Miranda (a fictional country that one of them serves as ambassador to), or to go play tennis with them.
For the majority of the movie, it all makes sense. As a sly, poking fun at these people Buñuel makes it his job to never put them out or to deny them a sense of character, but maybe he's angry at the institution that they encompass. Whatever way you look at it, his narrative is far from fractured.
But then we hit the second half of the movie and Buñuel flexes his surrealist six-pack. The movie doesn't go so far as to make my head hurt or to give the audience a plethora of visual cues with no formality as to how to assemble them in a logical (or illogical sense). Instead, we get a clear painted surrealism—one that deals with dreams within dreams and ghosts returning to posts and mass murdering riflemen,
It's all quite thrilling actually.
It makes me want to put on a suit, or get dolled up in a dress and head out to a cocktail party, to forget the complexities and emotions of everyday life and when confronted with them—as evidenced by a funeral in one scene—to feel only slightly uncomfortable.
Maybe the charm of the movie is the smile always on the face of the characters. The effortless winning that spirals out in situations after situations, reality after reality.
After all, who doesn't want to be an easy, cocaine-smuggling success?
Posted by Micah Jones