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The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (The Criterion Collection)

4.2 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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(Feb 12, 2002)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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, Stéphane 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.

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What can be more enjoyable then a meal among friends and family? In Luis Buñuel's surrealistic comedy The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie it is this common ritual a sextet of upper-class friends repeatedly attempt, only to be obstructed by one obscure event after another. Masterfully balancing the dichotomy of class vs. debauchery Buñuel delivers a ripping critique of the upper class. It is clear from the beginning that the lives Buñuel’s Bourgeoisie are living are not what they seem. Eventually, their true colors begin to shine; not in actual actions but in haunting dreams. What is real and what lies in the subconscious becoming exceedingly blurry and in order to deliver his message, surrealism must take over. It is hard to pigeonhole Buñuel’s classic that won him the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film 1972: An absurd odyssey? A discreet satire? Not necessarily, but definitely charming. --Rob Bracco

Special Features

  • "El Naufrago De La Calle De La Providencia" ("The Survivor on the Street of Providence") 1970, 25 min. - A documentary on Bunuel by longtime friends Arturo Ripstein and Rafael Castanedo
  • Bunuel's recipe for the perfect martini
  • A proposito de Bunuel (Speaking of Buneul, 2000): a new 98-minute documentary on the life and work of Buneul by Jose Luis Lopez-Linares and Javier Rioyo

Product Details

  • Actors: Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, José Sancho, Carlos Fuentes, Claudio Isaac
  • Directors: Luis Buñuel, Javier Rioyo, José Luis López-Linares
  • Writers: Jean-Claude Carrière, Luis Buñuel, Agustín Sánchez Vidal
  • Producers: Frida Torresblanco, Jorge Sánchez
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: February 12, 2002
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004Z1FM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,422 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Anthony Clarke on September 18, 2000
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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'.
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Format: DVD
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.
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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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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