THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE
FINAL DAY! MUST END TODAY!
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Starring Delphine Seyrig, Fernando Ray
50th Anniversary 4K Restoration. Approx. 102 min.
It’s a mealus interruptus for suave ambassador Fernando Rey (THE FRENCH CONNECTION), dry martini afficionado Paul Frankeur, his perpetually smiling wife Delphine Seyrig (LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD), her queasy-stomached sister Bulle Ogier, gracious hostess Stéphane Audran, and her sharply dressed husband Jean-Pierre Cassel (ARMY OF SHADOWS): they’re always arriving at elegant dinners to find they’ve got the day wrong; the proprietor’s lying dead in the next room; the tea room’s out of tea and coffee; the army’s dropping in for maneuvers; the roast’s a prop and they’re in a play for which they know no lines; or the cops decide to make a major bust. But there’s coitus interruptus too – even coitus un-interruptus – and intervals where a complete stranger joins the group to tell of his ghost-ridden and murderous childhood, and a soldier, just after giving the alarm of the enemy’s attack, is cordially asked to retell the story of his curious dream. But then these characters are constantly dreaming, although they are only awake after they’re found themselves in the most preposterous of tight spots – mayhem ensues at a sophisticated cocktail party where polite chit chat consists of pointing out every embarrassing fact about the Latin American republic of Miranda to its ambassador Rey – then Frankeur awakes to announce he’s dreamt that Cassel was dreaming. But these bourgeois always maintain their elegant couture, gracious politesse, and the quintessence of style, whether consummating a drug deal or sauntering down a country road. Academy Award for Best Foreign Film of its year; Best Film, Best Director, National Society of Film Critics. Co-written by Buñuel’s longtime collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, winner of the Writer’s Guild of America West’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the first foreign-language writer to be so honored.
A RIALTO PICTURES RELEASE
"AN AVANT-GARDE SITCOM… Suavely irrational, predicated on interlocking dreams (and dreams within dreams), as well as assorted terrorists, gangsters and army officers, along with an extremely obliging bishop… French manners have seldom been so expertly ridiculed. A few of the movie’s pranks (an inconvenient death disrupts one dinner) still shock; others (Bulle Ogier parading around in Napoleon’s hat) remain laugh-out-loud funny.”
– J. Hoberman, The New York Times
Read the full review
“Luis Buñuel’s most frivolously witty movie, directed (at the age of 72) with exhilarating ease. It’s a cosmic vaudeville show-- an Old Master’s mischief. He is no longer savage about the hypocrisy and inanity of the privileged classes; he has grown almost fond of their follies--the way one can grow fond of the snarls and silliness of vicious pets. This episodic story is about a group of six friends-- discreetly charming amoral beasts--whose attempts to have dinner together are always being interrupted: food, that ritual center of bourgeoisie well-being keeps eluding them. Buñuel takes an offhand, prankish approach to the medium; he keeps tweaking us, catching us up in an anecdote or a spooky death joke, and then dropping it. With Stéphane Audran, Julien Bertheau (who plays a bishop with extreme finesse), Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Paul Frankeur, Bulle Ogier Milena Vukotić, Claude Piéplu, and Michel Piccoli. Written by Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière.”
– Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies
"The film’s playful prodding of middle-class values and slippery grip on the difference between dreams and reality continues to influence directors today, from Roman Polanski’s CARNAGE to Charlie Kaufman’s SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK. As such, perhaps it has now slightly lost its special strangeness, but ‘The Discreet Charm’ remains both an amusing satire on polite society and a tricksy exercise in pulling the rug out from under our expectations. It still has a compelling and mischievous energy to it.
– Time Out
“Most of the films of Luis Buñuel are comedies in one way or another, but he doesn’t go for gags and punch lines; his comedy is more like a dig in the ribs, sly and painful.”
– Roger Ebert
“It is still superbly disturbing when everyone assembles around a dinner table in an unfamiliar house and then, when one wall suddenly moves away, they discover themselves to be on stage in a blaze of unnatural light, inspected by an auditorium full of frowning theatergoers. 'I don't know my lines,' mutters Sénéchal (Jean-Pierre Cassel) to himself in a cold sweat. An exotic and brilliant hothouse flower of a film.”
– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“Boasts one of the best titles in movie history and a cast to match… Blithely discontinuous, Discreet Charm has echoes of Buñuel’s early surrealist films, although its episodic, interlocking stories suggest the influence of THE SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT and Godard’s WEEKEND. In populating his movie with blatant bourgeois piggies and bedeviling them with third-world terrorists, Buñuel was—more than usual—responding to the moment. It’s mildly amazing that this movie won an Oscar—but that was back in the heyday of the New Hollywood. Typically, the filmmaker told a credulous Mexican journalist that his producers had bribed the Academy.”
– J. Hoberman, Village Voice