Directed by: Luis Bu?uel
Starring: Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, Stephane Audran, Paul Frankeur, Bulle Ogier
If you've never seen a Luis Bunuel film, it's high time you did, and this 1972 Oscar winner is a good place to start.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is more accessible than some of Bunuel's work and might just change your mind about the whole concept of "art films" and surrealism as something incomprehensible or dry. Whatever else this film is, it's anything but dry. Bunuel had the happy knack for mixing straight-up surrealism with a theater-of-the-absurd sensibility -- and more than a little self-mockery -- to make something unique in cinema. He made surrealism fun.
Bourgeoisie's story line -- along with what in the film is and isn't real -- might not be wholly penetrable, at least on one viewing. However, it's easy to grasp Bunuel's central, playful idea about exposing the hypocrisy of the upper reaches of French society, a world in which knowing how to make and drink the perfect martini is more important than the fact that you make your money dealing cocaine. (It should be noted that Bunuel himself was very concerned about the perfect martini.)
The premise of Bourgeoisie is nothing: A group of six dubious pillars of society sit down to a meal that never happens. During various attempts at dining, an interruption always occurs -- each time more bizarre and absurd than the one before. There's not much more to the story line than that, but what Bunuel does with it is delightful, insightful and wholly remarkable. A true treasure of cinema from one its masters.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke