The master of surrealism, Luis Bunuel was about 72 when he made this fantastic film, “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”. It is literally a wet “dream” come true for all those film buffs who like their movies full of oneiric imagery with random occurrences that, although set in a real world, do not make much sense!
It must be clear enough now, that there is no single plot to make this film a whole. Rather it is a collection of confounding events in the life of six central characters of the bourgeois class, including two married couples, who happen to be friends. Most events revolve around their repeatedly thwarted attempts to sit down to have a leisurely meal together! The world in Bunuel’s film, although real, isn’t very logical either. Several seemingly bizarre events are accepted as “normal” with a rather straight face by the characters, which adds to the many qualities of Bunuel’s surreal vision.
Relating some of the strangest and best events in the film in this review will do disservice to the first time viewer, but assuming that a mention of a couple of other events will only entice the reader to watch the film, instead of spoiling the fun, I think I can safely mention them. The group of the aforementioned six people are walking down a long stretch of an open road on a sunny day. This scene is repeated throughout the film and randomly interspersed with other events in the film. Then in one scene, the three ladies of the group sit down in a restaurant to have some tea. The waiter later comes and tells them that it is unavailable. The cycle continues, as later, no matter what they order, the waiter comes back after a few minutes and informs them that they are “out of it”. In the midst of this, a complete stranger, a sad-looking Lieutenant in a uniform, comes to their table, relates a ghostly tale from his childhood and walks away. The ladies don’t seem to be express much disbelief upon hearing the odd tale either!
Suffice to say, that this is one of Luis Bunuel’s best films in which he puts together such amazing episodes that will make you smile in disbelief! The episodes are sometimes disturbing, yet most of the times they are comic. But the comedy comes from the general irrationality of it all; the events are not “funny” in the conventional sense. The stranger it gets, the better it gets, and there is literally no end, as Bunuel subjects the audience to one great scene after other, some laced with wry humour, and some others revealing the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie. Fine performances come from almost all of the cast, in which their behavior reflects the eccentricity of the event at hand! They don’t really act normal or rational! Some scenes are ultimately revealed to be dreams, but there are yet others which are still off-the-wall yet not revealed to be either dream or reality. If nothing else this film will reveal Bunuel’s wide range of imagination where the surrealism doesn’t go wild all the way into another world (like in some Terry Gilliam films). Bunuel shows that twisting some reality in the real world can be just as weird and an even better experience than the outlandish, unrealistic universe in which some other filmmakers set their films.
Luis Bunuel accomplished at 72 what most other young filmmakers still struggle to do. He made a perfect film for us hungry viewers who seek uncoventional cinema! And yet at the same time, Bunuel seems to be having fun himself by subjecting us audiences to his spectacular imagination and having a good laugh at our perplexity. The Academy Award was well-deserved. The jury must have had a ball and handed over the trophy without further thought.
Go for it! Super fun and a good mind-fuck is guaranteed!