The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

(Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie)

Luis Buñuel

  • 1972
  • France, Italia, Spain
  • Comedy
  • 1h42mn
  • French
  • Color
Four bourgeois come to dine at an also bourgeois couple’s place, but on the wrong date. They decide to all go to a restaurant whose owner has just died.. Will their wonderful evening finally ever begin?
This hilarious satire is the first part of the Bourgeoisie trilogy written with Jean-Claude Carrière, completed by two other gems: The Phantom of Liberty and That Obscure Object of Desire. A devastating and delightful critic of the arrogance of officials and aristocrats. Its surrealist absurdity resonates with our world, in this film made of an entanglement of beginnings, in the image of this evening that never gets anywhere. Fabulous.

Kirill Serebrennikov

It seems unfair to me that we’re beginning to forget Luis Buñuel. I don’t mean cinephiles who are familiar with the history of 20th century cinema, but the new spectator generations.

Buñuel is the founder of surrealism in movies, going from radical political - sometimes even extremist - works to a sharp, sarcastic, but also gentle cinema, filled with love, melancholy, bitterness and despair. Buñuel was born and grew up in Spain. And, as is often the case with Southerners, his sadness and despair are painted in carnival colors.

One of Buñuel’s first cinema experimentations was Le Chien Andalou, the famous silent surrealist film he co-directed with Salvador Dali. In his memoirs, the director states that Dali and he followed two rules: “no idea or image should have a rational explanation” and “nothing in the film should symbolize anything. The only method to study symbols might be psychoanalysis”.

Le Chien Andalou has become a cinema classic, and has been disintegrated, as we say nowadays, into dozens of cinematographic memes. All cinephiles remember the shot where the woman’s eye is slit. A shock. But few people remember the following shot - a full moon shining in a night sky crossed by clouds.

All of Buñuel’s innovative cinema grammar is built on these unexpected and sharp poetic “rimes”. Despite all his cruelty, a certain aggressivity and his indomitable nature, he’s become one of the first poets of great cinema.

For my Carte Blanche I’ve selected The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

It’s one of the first films I saw in my youth, and after seeing it, I immediately wanted to write an essay. At the time I did not fully grasp the meanings of “bourgeoisie”, “charm” and ”discreet”. And how these three words could co-exist in the same title. I then knew nothing about Buñuel as a director, but I felt an irresistible urge to think, to formulate, to write about this film. So my first thoughts on cinema came to be thanks to Buñuel - a director who, by making films, experimented with the language of cinema till a ripe old age, while carrying a gun in his pocket since his youth.

Luis Buñuel is a director with a gun in his pocket, and you’ll surely feel it when you watch The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.


10/09 • 14h30 • Screen 100



  • With : Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Bulle Ogier, Stéphane Audran
  • Screenplay : Luis Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière
  • Photography : Edmond Richard
  • Editing : Hélène Plemiannikov
  • Production : Serge Silberman