Bunuel’s Overrated “Discreet Charm”

Cover of "The Discreet Charm Of The Bourg...
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In his review of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), Charles Thomas Samuels wrote, “Bunuel’s film doesn’t deserve to be called surrealistic because its dislocation of reality isn’t dictated by theme but by narrative opportunism.”  Is there a theme in this French-language attempt at surrealism?  I think so:  the theme that the middle class is blind—to everything.

Bunuel himself was blind.  He and co-writer Jean-Claude Carriere produced a script wherein “the dislocation of reality” and frequent satire do not mesh at all.  When Bunuel satirizes a clergyman who kills the murderer of his parents, before which he introduces a working-class woman who murmurs, “I do not like Jesus Christ,” he is merely indulging his atheism.  Too, fascinated as he is by domestic terrorists, he appears to be a political ignoramus; but, as Samuels indicated, it is only the narrative opportunism and not this political dimension that’s behind the surrealism.  Or “surrealism.”

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