The Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie: Criterion Collection

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Have you wanted to just sit down and eat, but every time you try, something seems to pop up and prevent that from happening? If so, then you can relate to the six people at the heart of this film, The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie. These six men and women are members of the upper echelon of society, which means they’re rich and powerful. Their plans have focused on them having a nice dinner together, which doesn’t seem that difficult of a proposition. But whenever they manage to almost sit down to a table, something happens and they end up on the bitter end of the stick. At first the problems are simple and common, but soon enough, these delays become very unusual and almost surreal at times. Some of the blocks are real events, while others are inside their heads and as time passes, things only serve to get more out of the normal limits. Can these six friends ever manage to just sit down and eat, or will these strange circumstances block them forever?

I’ve always liked this film and the director, Luis Bunuel, so I have been looking forward to this release since it was first announced. The film has won over a lot of fans since it’s release in 1972, as well as winning a sack load of awards, including an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. A lot of people call this a “lesser seen” film, but I have to disagree, as this movie gets play on several television stations geared toward film and has a rather large overall fanbase. So while it might be cooler to some people to claim this is an undiscovered gem, I think we all know better in the end. I think the films of Bunuel have become more popular all the time, which is good news to fans of his works, as that means more profit can be had by releasing his films. The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie has been given a new anamorphic transfer and a two disc treatment from Criterion, which is always good news. Two very insightful documentary features have been packed on, as well as couple smaller supplements also. I give this release a very, very high recommendation and look forward to future Bunuel releases on this format, perhaps from Criterion as well.

If you’re looking for films with a lot of surrealism and uniqueness, then you’ve come to the right place. The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie was directed by the great Luis Bunuel, who was a master of surreal filmmaking and created some really unusual films, such as this one. Bunuel was friends with Salvador Dali and together, they made Bunuel’s first film, Un Chien Andalou. In case you haven’t seen that piece, I won’t spoil it for you, but it is an unusual film and well worth a look if you have access to it. Now, if you need rather basic and explained storylines and stuff like that, then you won’t like Bunuel’s films, as he works within a free roaming sense of story and characters. I think it works out very well in most cases, but I know that type of cinema is not for us all. If you want to see more of Bunuel’s films, I recommend The Exterminating Angel, Belle de Jour, That Obscure Object Of Desire, The Young One, and Land Without Bread. The cast here includes Paul Frankeur (It’s Hot In Hell), Stephane Audran (Babette’s Feast), Delphine Seyrig (Stolen Kisses, Blood On The Lips), Fernando Rey (1492: Conquest of Paradise), and Jean-Pierre Cassel (Portrait of a Nude Woman).

Video: How does it look?

The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie is presented in a 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This film was made in 1972, but it looks brand new in this transfer, which should thrill fans of the film. The print shows some debris at times, but that is minimal at worst and the level of grain present is almost nill. So right off the top, this transfer is the cleanest edition of the film I’ve seen, which bodes well for the other elements also. The colors look just bright enough, with no traces of bleeds or other errors and flesh tones come off as normal as well. No issues with the contrast either, as black levels are dead on and detail is always high. All in all, this is a tremendous visual presentation and one that fans will be very pleased with in the end.

Audio: How does it sound?

This film isn’t very reliant on audio, so the original French mono track is more than adequate. The track seems pretty clean and little harshness is present, which is good for a film of this age. The dialogue sounds great, no evidence of distortion in the least and the vocals seem very crisp at all times. Of course, I don’t speak much French, but I can tell a sharp vocal track when I hear one. The rest of the elements are used in small doses, so this track handles them with no problems in the least. This disc also includes newly created English subtitles, which are a nice improvement over previous editions.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This two disc release might not be packed to the hilt with goodies, but Criterion has included some terrific bonus materials. On the first disc, you’ll find the film’s theatrical trailer and a twenty-four homage to director Luis Bunuel, which was made by a couple of his friends. This one covers Bunuel’s skills in terms of making a good martini, as well as some interviews in which his friends talk about him, pretty cool stuff. The piece is presented in the original language, but English subtitles are burned in, so you won’t miss much. The second disc contains a talent file on Bunuel and the main course here, a documentary on Bunuel that runs over ninety minutes in length. This is a wonderful documentary in all respects, a lot of information and it will make you want to explore his other works. This release doesn’t have a lot of stuff packed in, but what supplements have been included are of the highest quality.

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