Bonjour tout le monde!
As an unabashed Francophile, I have been going through classic and contemporary French cinema through three main sources: Netflix (J’aime le Netflix!), Laemmle and other indie theaters, and the annual COL-COA French Film Festival in Los Angeles. More on COLCOA in another post.
Aujourd’hui, I mean to discuss Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise*. Let’s be clear; I am no expert on Buñuel. I enjoyed and was slightly mystified by Belle de Jour, but I haven’t seen any of his other work. However, based on these two films, I consider myself a newly-minted fan.
Le Charme is silly, irreverent, and, like much of French cinema, deeply political. The film follows a group of bourgie men and women, whose attempts at a fine meal are constantly impeded by ever more inventive interruptions.
The party first arrives at their host’s house to find that there has been a mix-up in dates, and no dinner has been prepared. Undaunted, they travel to a local tavern that somehow seems emptier than usual. Eventually, they discover that a rather grim change of management has occurred. From there, the film quickly loses all semblance of verisimilitude and enters the narrative-defying field of dreams.
Buñuel takes the audience through various dreams, some terrifying, some poignant, almost all defined by their inscrutable meaning–or lack thereof. We move between the dream state to events in the main narrative that seem as illogical as dreams. Eventually–and to some degree, unavoidably–dreams meld into reality, and Buñuel gives us dreams within dreams within dreams.
Yes, fanboys-and-girls, just like Inception. Nolan, I’m afraid, is neither Alpha nor Omega.
Some of the political parallels are done a bit ham-handedly, but one could argue that the pointedness of the Miranda bits, the bishop plotline, and every scene with a servant, is necessary to show just how bizarre the world of class distinctions is, while keeping the film light and entertaining.
Did Buñuel succeed to that effect?
*It took me approx. three tries to spell “bourgeoise” correctly.