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33. Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie
(The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie)

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Surreal black comedy in which a group of friends repeatedly meet in order to eat together and are thwarted each time.

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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.

At another, they 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 randomly tells them about his childhood, and about how after the death of his mother, he was educated 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's favor. Following his ghost mother's request, the soldier poisons and kills the ruthless culprit.

A priest attempts to work for the couple who had (previously) sneaked off to their garden to make love owing to their unbearable stuffed-shirt guests. 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 was the gardener who killed the priest's parents, he first blesses him, then fires the shotgun, killing the man.

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.
A recurring scene throughout the film of which the six people are lost and walking silently on a road toward a mysterious destination which is also in the final sequence.

The film was made in France and is mainly in French, with some dialogue in Spanish.

The film received the 1972 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

 

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
October 22, 1972
Running time 102 minutes
Country France / Italy / Spain
Language French

 

Fernando Rey
Paul Frankeur
Delphine Seyrig
Bulle Ogier
Stéphane Audran
Jean-Pierre Cassel
Julien Bertheau
Milena Vukotic
Maria Gabriella Maione
Claude Piéplu
Marguerite Muni
Pierre Maguelon
François Maistre
Michel Piccoli

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