Review: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (4K Restoration)

Written and directed by Luis Buñuel, a surreal, virtually plotless series of dreams centred around six middle-class people and their consistently interrupted attempts to have a meal together. Starring: Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Bulle Ogier, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Julien Bertheau and Milena Vukotic.

For anyone looking for a straightforward story, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is probably not for you. While it begins simply enough, it becomes more surreal and inexplicable as time goes on. It fools you into thinking that you know what’s real and what isn’t, then throws everything in the air. Therein lies the answer to whether or not you will enjoy this film, it is a strange collection of storytellers, many of which don’t connect to one another so if you can let yourself simply go for the ride, then you’ll find it more entertaining than those who can’t. It can become somewhat confusing at times, following one thread then swiftly switching to another. It also has an unexpected taste for the sexual, this is one of the most randy group of middle-aged people you’ll find in film.

Unexpectedly, its visual quality reflects the eccentric nature of its story, it has a love of colour and theatricality. Even if you’re not charmed by its bizarre plot, its lavish aesthetic and its high level of detail and variety keep you plugged in. Luis Buñuel perfectly captures his characters’ wealth, privilege and luxurious lifestyles. The transitions to the plot may be jarring but the way in which Buñuel’s direction moves is not, it feels surprisingly smooth. You can imagine that were The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie made in modern day, it would feature some trippy transitions or edgy framing to enhance its obscurity but here, everything is deceptively natural.

Another element that may keep you drawn in, even if the story isn’t working for you, is the performances. This is a fantastic ensemble of actors, each bringing distinct personalities and traits, all having eccentricities to set them apart from one another, and also relate to each other. Each of the core friends are perfectly ridiculous, tapping into classic elitism and arrogance. However, one of the interesting factors is that they’re not inherently dislikeable, they hold your attention because they have captivating personalities.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is an exploration of surreal storytelling, following one road that gradually splits itself down a number of unusual and bizarre avenues. It’s told by a brilliant ensemble of actors who delightfully embrace the eccentricities to their characters. It’s undoubtedly not for everyone but if you can lean into its strange tone and unpredictable nature, then you’ll find it perfectly supported by Luis Buñuel’s colourful direction.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10


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