Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The Film: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (102)

The Director: Luis Bunuel (The Obscure Object of Desire (143), Viridiana (332))

What Is It?: A silly, wild satire aimed at the brainless and amoral antics of Spain's, ahem, bourgeoisie class. It's a downward spiral of dinner parties that goes from funerals to wars to shootings, all the while dancing the surreal shuffle. Fantastic.

The Experience?: Alex and I watched this film on our flight to New York City (something I'll be talking about in the next few days). I've already seen the film, so I spent much of it face first in her chest snoozing away. On the way home I was able to sit through three absolutely abysmal modern day films, thus, shining a spotlight on where my true love lies.


1. I hate bourgeoisie

Yes, I do tend to stray towards hating the social class, but what I mean by this is that I literally hate, abhor, loathe the word "bourgeoisie". It's 11 letters and six of them are vowels thrown together in a seemingly random order and writing it is a challenge, each and every time. Thus, because I'm writing about a movie with hated word in it's title, there might be a tone of anger lurking in the background, but please I do enjoy this movie, just loathe its title.

2. This might be the first.

I saw this film for the first time in a theatre at Whitman College and it was like somebody used pliers to peel my eyelids back. I remember staring at the screen, mouth agape, wondering how a film that didn't rely on special effects and explosions and Will Smith could be so engrossing. The other six people in the theatre seemed bored, but my usual bouts of nap that I bring in to every theatre, were gone. I remember grabbing the DVD box on the way out and seeing the words Criterion Collection. It may have been the start of my love affair. May of.

3. Surreal world.

Holy jeez, this is one weird movie. I'm sure there could and has been articles and books written about each and every individual scene in this film, about the symbolism and the intercut shots of the rich folk walking, seemingly aimlessly and the various parts of Spanish politics at play here, and I'm not going to write one of those. But I'll say this, even though I know nothing about Spanish politics of the 1970s, the way that each surreal moment builds upon the next keeps you in sway. It's amazing.

4. Did any of this really happen?

A lot goes on in this film. Coke dealing, shootings, sex, dinner with soldiers, martini's, and so on and so forth. But at the end of the film, as the rich folk wander down an empty highway under a scarily blue sky, you wonder to yourself, "Did this happen?", "Was this a dream?" The film begins with a death, or the discovery of a death, and whenever that happens I'm always slightly skeptical of the reality of what occurs next. Death is a powerful filmic symbol and an opening scene life extinguish has me wondering if this is just the afterlife, or some hellish retribution for lives gone wrong. In this film especially.

5. Rich folk, blah.

I don't know Luis Bunuel, or didn't know him, and I don't know a terrible amount about him, but from this film you can tell he is not a fan of the corrupt dealings of the rich. Every moment of every scene seems aimed at poking holes in the "discreet charm" that the rich give off. From their treatment of the poor, to their amoral behaviors, to their general dumbassery, it's a razor-sharp arrow aimed at deflating any sort of good will one might have towards the ruling classes. At times, the first and second time I watched this film I would turn my head and literally scoff at what was going on, on screen. I've only seen a couple Bunuel films but I'm pretty sure the majority feature the rich doing painfully stupid things. And that, that I enjoy.

6. No one ever eats.

This is a film about dinner parties and not a one of the main characters even gets a bite. I love the idea that these rich bastards can't ever find the time to do such a small but important part of life. They're too busy fucking and fighting and entertaining to sustain themselves. I won't ruin the end, but at the end when an amazing main character is on the edge of death, his wrinkled hand grabbing for a slice of meat is telling in so many ways.

Final Thoughts: As good the second time as it was the second. I like this early bit of the 100's for The Criterion Quest, just throwing out the big names (none of whom I've enjoyed previously) and making me smile all the while. This is a classic film, a film that you should see, once maybe twice.

Thursday: Harold & Maude

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