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Film / The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

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"I can't remember my lines."

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The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie) is a 1972 surrealist comedy film directed by Luis Buñuel.

Francois and Simone Thévenot (Paul Frankeur and Delphine Seyrig); Rafael Acosta, the minister from "Miranda" (Fernando Rey); and Simone's sister Florence, all arrive at the home of Henri and Alice Senechal (Jean-Pierre Cassel and Stéphane Audran) for dinner. Alice is surprised to see the others, as she was under the impression that the dinner party was for the following night. They go out to an inn, but find it empty of other diners. They leave when they're informed that the manager died and mourners are wailing for his body in the next room.

Things get even weirder and surreal from there, as the quest for dinner is repeatedly frustrated. There are dream sequences, and dreams within dreams. An officer in the army sits down with the women and absolutely out of nowhere tells them about how he murdered his stepfather when he was a boy. One dining room turns out to be a stage set for a play. Another dinner is interrupted by soldiers opening fire. And they never do get to eat.

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Michel Piccoli appears as the Interior Minister.


"The Discreet Tropes of the Bourgeoisie":

  • The Alcoholic: Florence, who has a habit of getting so drunk that she vomits in public.
  • And Starring: Michel Piccoli gets an "and with the courteous participation of Michel Piccoli" credit.
  • Badass Preacher: A bishop goes to bless a dying man who he discovers was responsible for killing the bishop's parents. The bishop blesses him...and blows him away with a shotgun.
  • Banana Republic: The Republic of Miranda, represented by a female Western Terrorist.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Rafael is using his diplomatic immunity and exemption from border searches to smuggle cocaine into France. Francois brings a Briefcase Full of Money to the embassy as his payoff.
  • Catapult Nightmare: The last bizarre sequence, in which the whole group is machine-gunned to death, turns out to be Rafael's nightmare. He bolts up in bed and gasps.
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  • Chekhov's Gun: Earlyin the film Rafael, Francois, and Henri are shown to be part of a cocaine-smuggling ring. Late in the film they're arrested.
  • Clucking Funny: The roast chickens turn out to be props.
  • Dinner and a Show: At one point, the "dinner" is revealed to be a stage play, which produces the page quote.
  • Dream Within a Dream: The bizarre scene where the group goes to dinner at the colonel's house, only to find that they are in a stage play, is eventually revealed to be a dream of Henri's. Then they go to the colonel's for real, except it's not for real, as that scene is revealed to be a dream of Francois's.
  • Electric Torture: With a piano, of all things. In a flashback a brutal police sergeant tortures a hippie by sticking him inside a grand piano which has been hooked up to electrical cables.
  • Gallows Humor: After the guests are brutally gunned down, one who escaped being killed tries to sneak food from the table he's hiding under, blowing his cover. The assassin shoots the table, looks under, and sees the guest eating the food as he helplessly looks up at him. He gets gunned down too.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Rafael, who is part of a cocaine smuggling ring, goes on a disapproving rant after seeing French soldiers smoking marijuana.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Right when the Senechals are going to make love, they hear their guests arriving downstairs. Alice says that the guests can wait five minutes, but her husband tells her that they can't make them wait because, "You scream too loud."
  • It Works Better with Bullets: When Rafael corners the terrorist in his apartment, he takes her gun, but leaves his on the table, seemingly by accident. She picks it up, points it at him, and pulls the trigger. Nothing but clicking.
  • Jackhammer Conversation: When the Interior Minister is telling the police captain why he wants Rafael and his friends released, the sound of a jet flying overhead is heard, masking the conversation. When the police captain is telling his subordinate, the typewriter in the background unaccountably gets much louder.
  • Mind Screw: Yes, for both the viewers and the characters.
  • Mirror Monster: In the officer's story about his childhood, his dead mother first appears to him in his mirror. Then she steps out of his closet as a corporeal ghost.
  • Older Than They Look: Everyone is surprised when the maid says she's 52 years old. (The actress was 38.)
  • Police Brutality: "You can't just arrest people like this."
  • Proscenium Reveal: Easily one of the weirdest in cinema. The gang arrives at the colonel's house and sits down for dinner. Suddenly the scene cuts to a reverse angle which shows that the fourth wall is in fact a stage curtain. The curtain rises, and they are revealed to be in a play, with an audience watching, and a director whispering cues for their lines. It turns out to be Henri's dream.
  • Random Events Plot: They go out to dinner, but it's the wrong night...they go out to dinner, but the restaurant's owner is dead...a young woman tries to kill Rafael...Rafael and Simone meet for a tryst...the bishop kills a guy...
  • Spiritual Successor: Similarities to Bunuel's own The Exterminating Angel are totally deliberate.
  • Surreal Humor: Of course. This is Buñuel, after all.
  • Take That!: The film is an attack on the Bourgeoisie's hypocrisy, corruption and sense of entitlement.
  • You Killed My Father: A soldier poisons the man who he had thought was his father after the ghost of his mother tells him that that man killed the man who actually was his father.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Simone is having an affair with Rafael.

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