Often regarded as Luis Bunuel’s masterpiece, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a manically random, though consistently sleek, surrealistic satire of the upper class. And though the film’s message, that rich people are unfulfilled (always being disrupted before they can begin the meal that is central to each loosely connected scene in the film) hypocrites (who dirty their hands in murder, corruption, drugs, affairs and drunkenness while attesting to their own purity) gets tiresome after it’s stated time after time by the writer-director, the film’s style is as fresh and wonderfully madcap as ever.
Dreams and dreams within dreams invade the narrative, minor characters halt everything (including the cavalry!) to recount their dreams, ghosts and terrorist assassins and dead police officers mix fantasy with reality, and punctuating it all are shots of the main characters walking purposelessly through the middle of nowhere. Individual scenes sometimes have regular conflicts (a young boy murders the man pretending to be his father after being told by the ghost of his dead mother that it is her last wish) or discernible meanings (one dream sequence, for example, sees the main troupe of characters invited to a dinner party only to discover themselves on a theatre stage instead of in a house), but what the hell does it mean as a whole?
I haven’t the slightest clue, and that’s probably how Bunuel meant it. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is therefore fun but slight and an overrated work by the director whose other films (such as Belle de Jour) are just as inventive and carry significantly more meaning and weight.
Rating: 3.0 / 4.0