Three Films by Luis Buñuel (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Phantom of Liberty, That Obscure Object of Desire) (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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More than four decades after he took a razorblade to an eyeball and shocked the world with Un chien andalou, arch-iconoclast Luis Buñuel capped his astonishing career with three final provocations—The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Phantom of Liberty, and That Obscure Object of Desire—in which his renegade, free-associating surrealism reached its audacious, self-detonating endgame. Working with such key collaborators as screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière and his own frequent on-screen alter ego Fernando Rey, Buñuel laced his scathing attacks on religion, class pretension, and moral hypocrisy with savage violence to create a trio of subversive, brutally funny masterpieces that explore the absurd randomness of existence. Among the director’s most radical works as well as some of his greatest international triumphs, these films cemented his legacy as cinema’s most incendiary revolutionary. BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • New high-definition digital restorations of all three films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks • The Castaway of Providence Street, a 1971 homage to Luis Buñuel made by his longtime friends and fellow filmmakers Arturo Ripstein and Rafael Castanedo • Speaking of Buñuel, a documentary from 2000 on Buñuel’s life and work • Once Upon a Time: “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie,” a 2011 television program about the making of the film • Interviews from 2000 with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière on The Phantom of Liberty and That Obscure Object of Desire • Archival interviews on all three films featuring Carrière; actors Stéphane Audran, Muni, Michel Piccoli, and Fernando Rey; and other key collaborators • Documentary from 1985 about producer Serge Silberman, who worked with Buñuel on five of his final seven films • Analysis of The Phantom of Liberty from 2017 by film scholar Peter William Evans • Lady Doubles, a 2017 documentary featuring actors Carole Bouquet and Ángela Molina, who share the role of Conchita in That Obscure Object of Desire • Portrait of an Impatient Filmmaker, Luis Buñuel, a 2012 short documentary featuring director of photography Edmond Richard and assistant director Pierre Lary • Excerpts from Jacques de Baroncelli’s 1929 silent film La femme et le pantin, an adaptation of Pierre Louÿs’s 1898 novel of the same name, on which That Obscure Object of Desire is also based • Alternate English-dubbed soundtrack for That Obscure Object of Desire • Trailers • New English subtitle translations • PLUS: Essays by critic Adrian Martin and novelist and critic Gary Indiana, along with interviews with Buñuel by critics José de la Colina and Tomás Pérez Turrent THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE In Luis Buñuel’s deliciously satiric masterpiece, an upper-class sextet sits down to a dinner that is continually delayed, their attempts to eat thwarted by vaudevillian events both actual and imagined, including terrorist attacks, military maneuvers, and ghostly apparitions. Stringing together a discontinuous, digressive series of absurdist set pieces, Buñuel and his screenwriting partner Jean-Claude Carrière send a cast of European-film greats—including Fernando Rey, Stéphane Audran, Delphine Seyrig, and Jean-Pierre Cassel—through a maze of desire deferred, frustrated, and interrupted. The Oscar-winning pinnacle of Buñuel’s late-career ascent as a feted maestro of the international art house, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is also one of his most gleefully radical assaults on the values of the ruling class. THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY Luis Buñuel’s vision of the inherent absurdity of human social rituals reaches its taboo-annihilating extreme in what may be his most morally subversive and formally audacious work. Zigzagging across time and space, from the Napoleonic era to the present day, The Phantom of Liberty unfolds as a picaresque, its main character traveling between tableaux in a series of Dadaist non sequiturs. Unbound by the laws of narrative logic, Buñuel lets his surrealist’s id run riot in an exuberant revolt against bourgeois rationality that seems telegraphed directly from his unconscious to the screen. THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE Luis Buñuel’s final film brings full circle the director’s lifelong preoccupation with the darker side of desire. Buñuel regular Fernando Rey plays Mathieu, an urbane widower, tortured by his lust for the elusive Conchita. With subversive flair, Buñuel uses two different actors in the latter role—Carole Bouquet, a sophisticated French beauty, and Ángela Molina, a Spanish coquette. Drawn from the surrealist favorite Pierre Louÿs’s classic erotic novel La femme et le pantin (The Woman and the Puppet, 1898), That Obscure Object of Desire is a dizzying game of sexual politics punctuated by a terror that harks back to Buñuel’s avant-garde beginnings.
- Language : French
- Product dimensions : 1.78 x 19.05 x 13.72 cm; 303.91 Grams
- Media Format : Subtitled, Blu-ray
- Subtitles: : English
- Studio : The Criterion Collection
- ASIN : B08L95Y3SF
- Number of discs : 3
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I’ll only review this film to save space, but the other 2 disks of this Criterion Collection are also great.
As you watch this film, ask yourself, why are the 6 friends walking down the middle of the road?
My answer is at the end of the review.
WHAT IS SURREALISM?
Surrealist art uses surprise, shock, illogic, juxtaposition of opposites, and humor to jar the participant from a normal mindset, releasing the internal, unconscious experience.
It is said that our usual intellectualized experience of the world is heavily contaminated by our past, our cultural expectations, and an artificial sense of how things “should” be. However, the pure unconscious mind provides a natural, uncontaminated viewpoint that shakes us out of our usual intellectualism.
I think surrealist works initially look reasonable and familiar but reveal themselves to be unreasonable and strange. Like Salvador Dali’s painting of an elephant with a giraffe’s neck, each part makes sense, but we are unable to make sense of the whole. Like Zen, by showing the workings of thought, surrealism stops the progression of thought. Many examples of surrealism are intentionally funny, to lampoon the seriousness with which artists take their work.
That’s my opinion, anyway — after seeing this film, see what You think.
______________ WHO’S WHO:
LUIS BUÑUEL PORTOLÉS is a surrealist filmmaker who directed, co-wrote, and provided the story of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Buñuel thinks movies are a form of hypnotism that make viewers receptive to their unconscious mind. He was critical of organized religion, the unity of church and state, and governmental coverup of poverty, misery, and crime.
FERNANDO REY plays Don Rafael Acosta, the rich and egotistic diplomat of an impoverished and oppressed country. One of the world’s great actors, Rey has an easy, expressive style that was effective in Friedkin’s The French Connection (1971; the real French Connection is addressed in this film). Rey also starred in Lina Wertmüller’s Seven Beauties (1975); Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight (1966), The Immortal Story (1968), and several unfinished films; as well as Buñuel’s Viridiana (1961), Tristana (1970), and That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). Rey has an amazing 246 acting credits.
THE SIX FRIENDS: The trio of husband Francois Thévenot (Paul Frankeur), wife Simone Thévenot (Delphine Seyrig), and Simone’s sister Florence (Bulle Ogier) travel together in social circles. Florence acts like a child who chain-smokes and tries to scarper martinis which invariably make her vomit. Henri Sénéchal (Jean-Pierre Cassel) and Alice Sénéchal (Stéphane Audran) are a young married couple in lust and love, who join the Thévenots and Ambassador Acosta as the 6 Bourgeois Friends.
Wealthy and socially esteemed, the 6 Bourgeois Friends are involved in all sorts of sordid affairs — worst of all, they are all shallow and empty people.
JULIEN BERTHEAU is Monsignor Dufor, the bishop who wants an honest job among high quality people, so he takes a position as the Sénéchal’s gardener. Compare Ludwig Wittgenstein.
DON’T MISS THESE SCENES
1) Rafael’s gluttony gets him shot for a slice of roast lamb.
2) Monsignor Dufor forgives the dying man for poisoning his mother and father.
3) The tea room that searches for tea.
4) When the women leave the dinner table, Rafael objects, “You are not being discreet!”
HOW DOES THIS FILM WORK?
The antics of the 6 esteemed friends look reasonable in each scene, but viewed together, the whole is disturbing. Our usual sensibilities are turned on their heads and we must face the fact that the clarity and sense that we make of our world is mostly a delusion.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie was shot in 35 mm Eastmancolor on Panavision cameras and lenses at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. It is 102 minutes in length.
WES’ FAMILY RATING: “OK FOR TEENS AND UP!
You may not want small kids to see the Sénéchal’s abortive attempts at lovemaking, but teens and adults are more likely to be amused and puzzled than horrified or upset at the film.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie won the Oscar and Golden Globe Awards in 1973 for Best Foreign Language Film.
This film is hilarious and deadly serious at the same time. Play along and you’ll see how a film that doesn’t make sense, really makes sense. Seriously, though, I love this film and the Criterion Collection Blu-ray is the best version I’ve ever seen (and heard). Enjoy.
THE ANSWER (finally):
Did you figure out why, throughout the film, we see the 6 Bourgeois Friends walking down the middle of the road? I think it’s because Simone’s sister Florence drank too much and was sick in the car. That’s my answer — what’s yours?
Feel free to click my name to find more movie ideas and to read other reviews.
I hope this review has been really helpful.