movie film review | chris tookey

Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie / Le Charme Discret De La Bourgeoisie

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  Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie  / Le Charme Discret De La Bourgeoisie Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
9.00 /10
Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, Stephane Audran
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Directed by: Luis Bunuel
Written by: Luis Bunuel, Jean-Claude Carriere

Released: 1972
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: France/ Spain/ Italy
Length: 105


Posh people try to have dinner.

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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What's the most overrated film of all time? This would be my nominee, It's mildly enjoyable as a puzzle, and the most interesting aspect remains its structure, which is of dreams within dreams within dreams. It still has the power to surprise, and must have seemed innovative on the art-house circuit in 1972. However, uncertainty over whether events are real or merely dreamed has long been a commonplace of less intellectually respectable pictures in the horror genre.
The adjective most often applied to Bunuel's film is "witty". His running joke, though I've never heard it make an audience laugh, is that the central characters are always interrupted just as they are about to eat dinner. The gag soon becomes repetitious, however, as do the intrusions by subsidiary characters to tell us their dreams, which are tiresomely inconsequential.
So where is all this alleged wit? Certainly not in the words. Writers such as Coward or Moliere exposed the workings of the bourgeois mind via a dazzling, epigrammatic facade. Although Bunuel and his co-writer Jean-Claude Carriere frame the action in scenes of drawing-room comedy, with consciously theatrical touches (painted backdrops and even, at one stage, an applauding audience), there is no verbal wit of the kind you get in genuine drawing-room comedy.
Nor does Bunuel reveal the inner core of his characters, except in the crudest way. All appear motivated by the seven deadly sins, or not at all. They have the same nihilistic hysteria as the scatalogical cartoons of Gerald Scarfe, whose fashionable heyday was around the same period.
Bunuel's middle classes are cardboard cut-outs of hypocrisy. They despise those who smoke marijuana as "drug addicts" but smuggle heroin under cover of diplomatic immunity. They fraternise with the military, support dictatorships, shoot their enemies or make them "disappear". Bunuel's film might have some validity as a comment on Franco's Spain, from which Bunuel was a refugee, but Discreet Charm was widely construed as having a worldwide resonance.
Bunuel's film, though made by a man of 72, caught the mood of a younger generation overawed by Vance Packard's Hidden Persuaders and Wright Mills's Power Elite and eager to see Fascist values behind evey capitalist establishment and middle-class facade. More than 20 years on, it looks like a ludicrously naive vision of the kind that motivated terrorist groups all over the world, from the Angry Brigade to the Manson family.

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