In Luis Buñuel's deliciously satiric masterpiece, an upper-class sextet sits down to dinner but never eats, their attempts continually thwarted by a vaudevillian mixture of events both actual and imagined. Fernando Rey, St... more »éphane Audran, Delphine Seyring, and Jean-Pierre Cassel head the extraordinary cast of this 1972 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film. Criterion is proud to present The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie in an exclusive Special Edition Double-Disc Set.« less
Anthony Clarke | Woodend, Victoria Australia | 09/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of Spanish director Luis Bunuel's finest, most subtle surrealist comedies. At least his films are often classed as comedies -- they're more an assault on our senses and conventions. The 'plot' (if one can call it that) unwinds slowly -- the fulcrum being the absurd situation of a group of socialite friends who are attempting to ....... no, better see for yourself than have me disclose it. It's enough to say that if you enjoy the Marx Brothers, or Pedro Almodovar, you'll adore Luis Bunuel. He has the comedy of the former and the anarchy of the latter, but his dagger is always that little bit sharper and more deadly. The promised Criterion issue is on two discs for a running time of almost three hours; the usual cinema version is less than two hours, so there must be some great supplements coming our way. Let's hope for more Bunuel on DVD -- next up should be his classic silent film 'Un Chien Andalou', in the 'sonorised' version prepared in the 1950s, when Bunuel himself added a soundtrack of the music he always envisaged as part of the film, ranging from Argentinian tangoes to the 'Love-Death' from 'Tristan and Isolde'."
Great film, fantastic DVD package
Alexander Leach | Shipley, West Yorkshire United Kingdom | 04/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have about 15 Criterion DVDs, and this is probably the best: a wonderful surreal comedy given a fabulous transfer to DVD. When the excellent extras are included this is outstanding package.The film will not be to everybody's taste: if you tend to favour no-brainer farces like 'Dumb & Dumber', I'd advise you to give this one a miss. However if you enjoy the films of Woody Allen, the Coen brothers and fine cinema generally you will enjoy this film, especially as the performances are wonderful: the urbane Fernando Rey, sexy Stephane Audran, and the bumbling Paul Frankeur are perfectly cast.The anamorphic image is outstanding: vividly clear with beautiful colours, and no nicks or flecks at all. Just beam up the sequence where the guests arrive for lunch near the beginning of the film (about 20 or so minutes in) and marvel at the luscious greens of the foliage as the car comes up the drive.Bunuel's direction is understated, but that is his genius in this film: in lesser hands this rambling tale with its bizarre dream sequences interpolated would have been a shambles, but the 'story' is so tautly told and perfectly paced.The shorter documentary is not so interesting, but the 105 minutes one is fascinating.A desert island DVD set."
Dinner is Served
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 04/29/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director Luis Bunuel is often described as a surrealist, but the word misapplied in reference to his later works; rather than present the viewer with an odd visual display, he prefers to first create a plausible reality and then progressively undercut it with an increasingly implausible series of events. Such is the case with the Academy Award-winning THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE, which begins with four friends who arrive at their hosts' home only to discover they have arrived on the wrong night--a plausible situation. But before the film has run its course, Bunuel unravels his tale of a meal that never quite happens in the most unexpected ways imaginable.The film works on several levels, mocking social conventions, the church, and eventually spilling its action into a series of overlapping nightmares in which various attempts to dine are frustrated by everything from the corpse of a restaurant manager in a nearby room to military manouvers. On one memorable occasion, the friends are invited to dine and are seated around an elegant table--when a curtain suddenly rises behind them and reveals them to be seated on a stage before a hostile audience!The cast (which features Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, Paul Frankeur, Bulle Ogier, Stephane Audran and Jean-Pierre Cassel as the constantly frustrated diners) plays with considerable aplomb, performing the most irrational scenes with a magnificent realism. When combined with Bunuel's absurdist story, the result is a disquieting yet often very funny discourse on frustrated appetites both real and imagined, and with many layers of incidental meaning along the way.The DVD package is very nice, with the film in near-pristine condition and a host of interesting and often amusing extras, and Bunuel fans will consider it more than worth the rather hefty price-tag attached. But a word of caution to the uninitiated: Bunuel is not for those who seek a tidy plot line with clear-cut meanings. If you are not already a fan, you should probably begin with his equally complex but somewhat more accessible and considerably more subtle BELLE DE JOUR before diving off into DISCREET CHARM.--GFT (Amazon reviewer)--"
Eddy Oquendo | New York, New York USA | 11/02/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Luis Bunuel, friend and contemporary of fellow Spaniard Salvador Dali, was the cinematic equivalent of his compatriot: an artist who chose surrealism as his vehicle of expression. Bunuel also had one heck of a funny bone -- alternately scathing and light-hearted, subtle and vulgar. There's nothing cooler than genius with a sense of humor.
How to describe Bunuel's terrifically imaginative "Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie"? Think Monty Python...in French. The film is like a matryoshka, one of those Russian toys that get smaller as you open each successive doll. Its story is told through a series of unfolding dreams that open one into the other with increasing amusement. Despite rare instances of gore and some potentially offensive material (Catholics may dislike the priest's role), "Charm" is consistently funny, often hilarious, and ALWAYS stimulating.
With this issue, Criterion has released one of their best products to date. The film itself appears slightly washed out (a common look for 70s movies), but it's clean about 90% of the time. Since there is little music and few sound effects, the audio quality scores as reasonable. Two nice documentaries are included, one better than the other. The subtitles caused few concerns; there were only a few, infrequent typos. This package is a must for lovers of foreign cinema, and a worthy addition to any DVD collection.
My willingness to explore has once again yielded happy results. "Charm" has quickly become one of my all-time favorites, right up there with the best Hollywood productions. Take the plunge and ignore any misgivings about "art films" with subtitles. If you fall prey to the herd mentality -- or your own timidity -- you'll miss out on one of the most humorous and interesting films in ANY language. "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" is a nearly fool-proof cure for the "foreignfilmophobic.""
Six characters walking together down a road
LF | USA | 07/31/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Different people will get different things from this odd film. I'll share with you what I take from it.
It is a series of events that at first seem real but usually become dreamlike, and sometimes end with one of the characters waking up and revealing the last scene to be a dream of his.
The most memorable scene, for me, is the scene where the major characters are invited to a dinner and, during the dinner, a curtain is raised and the diners are shown to be on a stage, observed by an audience.
This seems to me like a metaphor for our lives. It reminds me of the Shakespeare soliloquy comparing us to actors on a stage. What it says to me is that we are these actors, and there is an unseen audience for us.
To fill out that explanation, we see a bishop who wants to be a gardener. Depending on what he is wearing, he is taken for either a bishop or a gardener. Our identities are not stattic. We are playing parts. We are not what we seem to be. We aren't even what we think we are. We are souls together on a journey, like the six souls walking together along a road, shown to us a number of times throughout the film, and in the final shot.
The separation between life and death is stripped away in this film. Ghosts talk to living characters. Ghosts appear in several scenes, as alive as any of the other characters. Our lives are illusions. Our lives are dreams. Life is a dream. It is not real. Death is not death.
The living are simply the ones invited to dinner, those who are being viewed by an unseen audience. The dead haven't gone away. We are all, alive or dead, souls together on a journey.
Other than that, I can't really make sense of the film, in the sense of putting it all together to form a whole. It is a series of partially related stories. After about an hour of it, I found myself getting a little tired of what was going on. But then it picked up a bit and ended strong enough.
I like the scene of the bishop giving last rites to the man who murdered the bishop's parents, and giving the man forgiveness, and then blowing his head off with a gun.
I also like the scene of the couple having friends over for dinner, and then sneaking out a window to have sex in the garden for 20 minutes before receiving their guests.
Another scene I like is when a man and woman are about to commit adultery, when the woman's husband shows up at the door, the woman herself walks right up to him with a plausible excuse for being there, and the other man asks to have a few minutes alone with the other man's wife while the husband waits for her. Guess why.
These little scenes give you an idea of the flavor of the action of this film, and of its humor.
This film agrees with Shakespeare that we are actors in a play, but doesn't agree with Macbeth's negative judgment that life is a tale told by an idiot. The six characters walking together down that road aren't idiots. They aren't Einstein, but they aren't idiots. They are dreamers, as are we all."