The DVD cover art for Luis Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie has got a giant pair of lips with some feet and a big hat. Its kinda cute and says a good bit about what the film involves. Instead of a face, we get enlarged, fetishized elements of a person, presumably someone who puts on airs. A big black hat, glossy painted lips and high heeled shoes.


Its a satire in the strongest sense of the word, not just poking fun, more outright denouncing the subject matter entirely. I wouldn’t say its funny though. Its really cynical and pokerfaced. You may be puzzled by the odd sequencing and bewildered by the situations but I never had a laugh out loud moment, that’s for sure. I don’t even think I snickered.

The central element of the film is the attempts of a group of upper class donks to get together for a meal. They try their best, but a combination of unfortunate events and their animalistic impulses deny them this. Towards the end, they even sit down and get to the main course, but Bunuel denies them the finish. These dogs aren’t even allowed  a simple meal.

The subversion is obvious. Its purposeful but not spiteful. These crusty, fako folks are pathetic, sad creatures. You almost feel sorry for them. They gather and shoot shit, mostly shitting on a fictitious country and the ambassador, or talking about how their poncey food is so good. They do the same thing 500 times over. It’s sad. Plus, they can’t even finish what they wanted to do. From a simple misunderstanding to the death of a restaurant manager to an army invading the room, we get a whole spread of crazy interruptions. Which saves us from the boring episodes of inane behaviour amongst the preening actors.

Every facet of the Bourgeois is given a grilling here, even the church. A Bishop with a green finger fetish joins the group, buffoon like in one interchange where he reveals the depth of his lack of knowledge. He appears at first in his robes, greeted with a kiss by a maid but returns in gardening gear and gets ushered out by the owners of a house. Yet, in Clark Kent swiftness, he rings the bell again and is greeted with apologies when he’s back in the robes. Clothes maketh the man. If he were wearing papal robes, they’d probably take him for the pope too.

Then there’s the dream sequences. The characters get into nighmarish situations, where they variously end up in jail only to be saved by a dead policeman or they end up as actors on a stage when they thought they were going for dinner, even forgetting their lines. There’s dreams within dreams and these get stitched together by the 6 main characters walking down a lonely road in a huge field with no destination in sight. Rather peasant status for some rich folk.

It’s one big slap in the face for anyone who thinks they’re anything more than the apes we really are. There are those who will feel aghast at the thought of themselves as pretentious twats. Then there are those who think it’s a massive insult. Then there may be those who might dismiss it as mere entertainment. And yet others might actually trump the film as some sort of masterpiece, like the Academy For Motion Picture Arts And Sciences handing out the Oscar Discreet Charm won for best foreign language film back in ’73.