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The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, May 6

A Tribute to Jean-Claude Carrière

Saturday, May 6, 2006
6:30 p.m. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Luis Buñuel (France, 1972)

(Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie). "Freedom is conceivable only after a certain number of calories."-Caroline Benjo. Buñuel and Carrière's account of the nightlong (lifelong, class-wide) attempts of six wealthy people to sit down to dinner is the comedy of manners to end all comedies of manners. With la crème de la crème of European actors, Buñuel produces, in lieu of something edible, the secret ingredient of the bourgeois power base, which might be the desire for thwarted desire. Cuisine interruptus. As Raymond Durgnat wrote, "Their plague is not the Exterminating Angel but the Interrupting One." It's never the right time for sex or food-a theme that goes back to L'age d'or-but the rituals of sangfroid continue in the face of a pot-smoking militia and terrorists at the door, the elusive leg-of-lamb and the rubber chicken, waking nightmares and walking dreams. If reality is a promise, so is consumption, and one can live on air.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière. Photographed by Edmond Richard. With Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, Stéphane Audran, Bulle Ogier. (100 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Rialto Pictures)