The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Produced by Serge Silberman
Written by Luis Buñuel
Jean-Claude Carrière
Starring Fernando Rey
Paul Frankeur
Delphine Seyrig
Stéphane Audran
Bulle Ogier
Jean-Pierre Cassel
Cinematography Edmond Richard
Editing by Hélène Plemiannikov
Release date(s) September 15, 1972 (1972-09-15)
Running time 102 minutes
Country France
Language French

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (French: Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie) is a 1972 surrealist film directed by Luis Buñuel[1] and written by Jean-Claude Carrière in collaboration with the director.[2] The film was made in France and is mainly in French, with some dialogue in Spanish.

The film concerns a group of upper class people attempting — despite continual interruptions — to dine together. The film received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.


Plot summary

The film consists of several thematically linked scenes: five gatherings of a group of bourgeois friends, and the four dreams of different characters. The beginning of the film focuses on the gatherings, while the latter part focuses on the dreams, but both types of scenes are intertwined. There are also scenes involving other characters, such as two involving a Latin American female terrorist from the fictitious Republic of Miranda. The film's world is not logical: the bizarre events are accepted by the characters, even if they are impossible or contradictory.

The film begins with a bourgeois couple, the Thévenots (Frankeur and Seyrig), accompanying M. Thévenot's colleague Rafael Acosta (Rey) and Mme. Thévenot's sister Florence (Ogier), to the house of the Sénéchals, the hosts of a dinner party. Once they arrive, Alice Sénéchal (Audran) is surprised to see them and explains that she expected them the following evening and has no dinner prepared. The would-be guests invite Mme Sénéchal to join them for dinner at a nearby inn. Finally arriving at the inn, the party find it locked. They knock and are invited in, despite the waitress' seeming reluctance and an ominous mention of "new management". Inside, there are no diners (despite disconcertingly cheap prices) and the sound of wailing voices from an adjoining room. It is learned that the manager died a few hours earlier and his former employees are holding vigil over his corpse, awaiting the coroner. The party hurriedly leave.

Two days later, the bourgeois friends attempt to have lunch at the Sénéchals, but he (Cassel) and his wife escape to the garden to have sex instead of joining them. One of the bourgeois friends takes this as a sign that perhaps the Sénéchals are aware the police are coming (fearing the discovery of the men's involvement in cocaine trafficking) and were leaving to avoid arrest. The party leaves again in panic.

They the women visit a tea house, which turns out to have run out of all beverages - tea, coffee, milk, and herbal tea, although it finally turns out that they do have water. While they are waiting, a soldier tells them about his childhood and how, after the death of his mother, his education was taken over by his cold-hearted father. The soldier's mother (as a ghost) informs him that the man is not his real father, but in fact killed the soldier's father during a duel over his mother. Following his ghost mother's request, the soldier poisons and kills the culprit.

When the Senechals return from their garden after sneaking off to make love, their friends are gone but they meet a bishop who had arrived shortly after. He greets them in their gardener's clothing, and they angrily throw him out. When he returns in his bishop's robes, they embrace him with deference, exposing their prejudice, snobbery, and hypocrisy. The bishop asks to work for them as their gardener. He explains to them about his childhood - about how his parents were murdered by arsenic poisoning, and the culprit was never apprehended. Later on in the film, he goes to bless a dying man, but when it turns out that the man had killed the bishop's parents, he first blesses him, then fires a shotgun, killing the man - thus closing the circle of hypocrisy.

Various other aborted dinners ensue, with interruptions including the arrival of a group of French army officers who join the dinner, or the revelation that a French colonel's dining room is in fact a stage set in a theatrical performance, during a dream sequence. Ghosts make frequent appearances in what seemed to be disconcerting dream sequences.

Buñuel plays tricks on his characters, luring them toward fine dinners that they expect, and then repeatedly frustrating them in inventive ways. They bristle, and politely express their outrage, but they never stop trying; they relentlessly expect and pursue all that they desire, as though it were their natural right to have others serve and pamper them. He exposes their sense of entitlement, their hypocrisy, and their corruption. In the dream sequences, he explores their intense fears - not just of public humiliation, but of being caught by police, and mowed down by guns. At least one character's dream sequence is later revealed to be nested, or embedded, in another character's dream sequence. As the dreams-within-dreams unfold, it appears that Buñuel is also playing tricks on his audience, as we try to make sense of the story.

A recurring scene throughout the film, wherein the six people are walking silently and purposefully on a long, isolated country road toward a mysterious destination, is also in the final sequence.

Buñuel receives his Oscar in wig and dark glasses, Paris, 1972


See also


  1. ^ Staff (2004). The Scarecrow Movie Guide. Seattle: Sasquatch Books. p. 32. ISBN 1570614156. 
  2. ^ "Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie". IMDb. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 

Further reading

  • Kinder, Marsha (1999). Luis Buñuel's the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521568315. 

External links

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