Le Charme Discret De La Bourgeoisie: The Point In Pointless

Luis Bunuel adds another fine film to his solid record with this surrealistically oriented tale of so-called bourgeois types. Film encompasses South American politics, delves into his usual look at Church clerics, the army, and the monied upper class that is at once timely and timeless.

An exotic and brilliant hothouse flower of a film.

The Guardian

A crazy upper-class tale or a surrealistic free association?

Besides any psychoanalytic analysis, this film certainly portrays many archetypical characteristics of the post-industrial bourgeoisie, such as:

They judge you by your clothes

The Senechal wouldn’t allow a man dressed as a gardener enter their house, but when the same man comes in a priest’s cassock he is warmly welcomed.

They hate marijuana, but sell cocaine

When the Thevenot couple see the military smoking marijuana they feel shocked and say “they hate drugged people.” They state that the herb is not the problem, but it opens door to heavier drugs. The ironic part is that they are known for selling cocaine.

They are released for no reason

The six of them get arrested for selling drugs but are soon released. The reason? Not reasonable at all, except for the part that they are very influential and Rafael is to become the ambassador of Miranda, and imprisoning him could threat the business between Franca and South America.

They fear the revolutionary

This woman above seems like a threat to Rafael. She’s a socialist and is stalking the political man to kill him. Rafael is aware of this and cleverly tricks the girl, and so she is easily kidnapped. The revolutionary is shown as a hot-blooded person, willing to kill their enemies but without any strategy: they seem to be driven only by passion. They are a threat for the system but they are obviously easy to get.

it is worth risking your life for another bite of beef.

While in an assault, where all his friends were shot, Miranda covers himself under the dinner table. His uncontrollable hunger, however, costs his life. Once he aims his hand outside of the table to get another piece of meet, the murderers find him out and shoot him.

Why does it seem so insane? Aren’t they risking their own lives all the time, by selling illegal drugs and being part of a threatening mafia , in order to have a fancy life? Maybe it is worth risking a little bit in order to fulfil a momentary desire.

the church has changed, you know.

The solace of religion is depicted in an allegorical way, being the priest the archetypical
hypocritical churchman.

He serves a bourgeoisie family as gardener. Why is he doing so? Why is the church always serving the rich? At least, that is what seems to happen under the table.

Isn’t religion supposed to share forgiveness and compassion? Isn’t the figure of the priest a holy devotional man with less sins? At best in theory.

A peasant calls the priest to tell him she hates Jesus. He only advises her not to feel that way. She wants to explain why she hates the Holy figure. The priest, however, says he needs to see the sick man first, clearly avoiding her. Is that really faith and a Christian act? The priest’s character seems to only serve his own interests. For him, “serving God” is just a theory. He appreciates all the prestige the cassock provides him and all the doors it opens, nothing more.

dreams: the flow of unconsciousness

“Sometimes dreams are really…”

“The presentation of a number of dreams in the film means we are going down Freud‘s “royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious.” Buñuel’s dream, as wish-fulfillment, is clearly to have the bourgeoisie experience, if only briefly, some of the suffering of the poor: hunger, death, wrongs uncompensated for, humiliation, unjust imprisonment, and fury driving one to violence.”

Buñuel creates little realities, like a Chinese box, in which one dream is inside the other. Every extract of dream is an unconscious mind’s attempt to uncover some deep feeling or thought. Once brain uses symbol, and not exactly language, to reveal some deeper truth, the films seems to lack logic and clear points.

As explained in Freud and Beyond: a History of Psychoanalytic Thought, “…the ego also contains complex unconscious defensive arrangements that have evolved to satisfy the demands of neurotic compromise, ways of thinking that keep repressed impulses out of conscious awareness in an ongoing way…. Unconscious ego defenses gain nothing from being exposed…The ego, charged with the daunting task of keeping the peace between warring internal parties and ensuring socially acceptable functioning, works more effectively if it works undercover.” (Mitchell and Black, page 26)

roads were made for journeys, not for destinations.

This Confucius’s quote states what I perceive from their walk through the road: life must go on.

Every time one character awakes in the movie it is shown the scene where the six main figures appear walking down a roadway. Seemingly leading to nowhere. Since they are worried only about maintaining their status quo, they seem to lack a solid ennobling purpose: they are just walking, existing – not fully living. And while their unconscious minds create a symbolic and oneiric reality of their own, life outside passes by as a heavy burden – full of fear and death-like thoughts.

As a grand finale, here it is a Dry Martini special recipe:

Please be attentive. This is one of the cornerstones of polite society.

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