The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Luis Bunuel looms over me like this phantom of genius that I have yet to unravel. Having only seen Belle de Jour (and admittedly did not like it much) and Un Chien Andalou (who hasn’t seen that film?), I don’t really have a grasp of what Luis Bunuel is capable of. He seems to be one of the directors who film lovers build monuments to in their basements. He has inspired some of my favorite filmmakers of all time and is mentioned in all the film history books. You see one of his films in every film history class that anyone will ever take (Here is a reference to Un Chien Andalou again. All that is missing from this piece is the mention of that song by the Pixies inspired by it. I want to grow up to be a debaser.) Then again he is a lot like Godard in the way he inspires critics to say he is too political, too obscure and to macabre in his humor. That is what I love in Godard, but that is also what makes me so annoyed with him. The genres and the type of filmmaking that Bunuel is doing has to have a degree of subtly in order to make it genius.

Maybe he went too subtle with Belle du Jour for me. Maybe what I am typing as truth is actually a total lie. I say that because I really liked the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and you know from the moment you look at Criterion Collection’s cover, read the title and see the opening shot of people traveling in an expensive car what it is going to be about and what Bunuel’s agenda in this film is going to be. Bunuel is going to make jabs at the high society and reveal them to be evil, manipulating and selfish human beings. That is the impression that I had at the beginning of the film and it proved to be true. Bunuel did reveal to the audience that these people were materialistic, snobby and awful people. However he did it in a way that was enjoyable and inventive. But he still got me to feel that at the end of the film there should be no more people like this in the world.

What this film tries hard to point out is the difference of class and how the upper class always takes advantage of and subjugate the lower class. He illustrates it early on when one of the males of the group discuss his view on making a great martini. He talks about the history of it, what kind glass to use, what kind of alcohol is to be use and finally how to drink it. To illustrate how not to do it, he calls his driver in. Assuming that this driver has  never had anything so grandiose before, he gives him the martini he just made. The driver downs it like a shot of whiskey. The male bourgeois person dismisses him and tells his audience of one that is the exact wrong way to drink a martini. There are several instances in the film where these bourgeois come into contact with “commoners” or people of lower class and they treat them like crap. What makes it crappier is they do with an air of normality. After a while it becomes sickening to watch.

The concept behind the film is that this group of people can never sit down and enjoy their meal. They drink a great deal, but they can never enjoy their meal due to all of the various and ludicrous interruptions. It all culminates in an army invading in one of the people’s front yards and then every one being sent to jail for  drug trafficking. What is the most hilarious part of it is that while this army is having a drink in their house, they break out joints and start smoking. The tight-knit group then proceeds to go on a digression berating smoking marijuana. The whole time the audience is aware that the two men are trafficking drugs through an embassy. This is why I like this film. It is quirky and witty.



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