The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie
Introduced by Jean-Claude Carrière
The Gate, Notting Hill
Sunday 6 December, 12.40
This screening is part of the Luis Buñuel: Aesthetics Of The Irrational season, organised by The Institute of Contemporary Arts.
The Genesis Of Light
By Milana Vujkov
“Ideas? I don’t have ideas. It’s all instinct.” – Luis Buñuel
Buñuel was an insider’s insider, a product of wealth and privileged circumstance, gone exquisitely rogue. Born at the exact turn of the 20th century, as if inaugurating the most dramatic age in the history of humankind and its key means of communication -the moving image – he boldly employed its elusive powers to his own consistently moral ends. Viscerally grasping the hidden code of celluloid and its genetic similarity to the landscape of dreams, and influenced by psychoanalysis, he naturally fell in with the surrealist crowd, and breezily created what is still perhaps the most famous short film in history – Un Chien Andalou (1929), co-conspired by Salvador Dalí.
It was the beginning of an extraordinary journey of exploration of the human condition bound by the straightjacket of society, immersed in the essence of light and projected onto the blank canvasses of countless dark rooms across the globe. In sympathy with man’s plight, and armed with surgically precise black humor, an anarchic mind, and playful but formidable courage, he created a body of work referenced repeatedly, subconsciously, almost hypnotically by most filmmakers working today. Incidentally, Buñuel was apparently a keen and accomplished hypnotist in his youth. The trance conjured still seems to be in effect.
Buñuel had a particular interest in exposing the rotting flesh of a corrupt oligarchy beneath an elegant, glacial veneer of vapid rituals and social graces. This became a cherished lifelong mission, which reached its natural crescendo towards the end of his life with The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (1977), his pièce de résistance, which he co-wrote with Jean-Claude Carrière, a frequent collaborator. As Carrière recounts, this charmed pairing of minds started with Buñuel inquiring if he drank wine. After replying that not only did he drink wine, but he also made it, three bottles were ceremoniously ordered to the table, but were never to be consumed to the end.
In a glorious surrealist twist of fate, the desires of many of the protagonists they brought to life were also never to be fulfilled to the end, thus wickedly defining the nature of the beast that exists never to be satiated.
Most comically, and grotesquely, in The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie, the ultimate wish of the assembled characters is to sit down and have a quiet, refined, opulent meal – the true fetish of the moneyed classes. They seek it, talk about it, dress for it, endlessly reflect on it, but never achieve it. Their hilariously boring mechanical proceedings are repeatedly interrupted by the wild flow of life – death, sex, prison, revolution, dreams – most of them their own, in which they devise the most delicious comeuppances for their nefarious deeds, the justice of Morpheus never reaching them on the shores of the alpha state. Their realm never changes, and they are on a road without end, literally.
The timelessness of The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie is astounding, although it has a distinct 1970s aura of disregard for surface delights, magnifying them to clear vulgarity, and bidding them good riddance. An almost antiquated, futile wish, as beautiful, vacant form bounces back every time, cracked, but defiant, the lifeline of modern-day consumerism. But the light, as the poet says, can now get in.
We are delighted to welcome screenwriter and novelist Jean-Claude Carrière to introduce this film.
Book tickets here.