THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (Luis Buñuel, 1972)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th St. at Amsterdam Ave.
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center: Francesca Beale Theater, 144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
November 23-29, $13
Winner of the 1972 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a sharp, cynical skewering of the European power structure, taking on the high-falutin’ hypocrisy of the government, the military, religion, and, primarily, the wealthy class in hysterical vignettes that center around a group of rich friends trying to sit down and enjoy a meal. But every time they get close, they are ultimately thwarted by miscommunication, a corpse, army maneuvers, terrorists, and, perhaps most bizarrely, fake stage chicken. Buñuel regular Fernando Rey is a hoot as Rafael Acosta, the cocaine-dealing ambassador of Miranda who doesn’t take insults well. Stéphane Audran and Jean-Pierre Cassel play the Sénéchals, a lustful couple desperate to finish a romantic rendezvous even as their guests wait, Julien Bertheau is the local bishop who moonlights as a gardener, Claude Piéplu is an erudite colonel not afraid to share his opinion at a haughty cocktail party, and Maria Gabriella Maione is a sexy stranger who might or might not be a revolutionary after Acosta. Meanwhile, Acosta doesn’t mind making a play for Simone Thévenot (Delphine Seyrig) right under her husband’s (Paul Frankeur) nose. And Ines (Milena Vukotic), one of the Sénéchals’ maids, watches it all with a wonderfully subtle disdain. As if the first half of the film were not surreal enough, the second half includes a series of riotous dream sequences involving ghostly apparitions and a bit of the old ultra-violence, either outwardly related by characters or as cinematic surprises dished out by the masterful Buñuel. None too discreet about its myriad charms, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is having a week-long fortieth-anniversary engagement at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in advance of the annual Spanish Cinema Now series, which runs December 7-16 and includes a special sidebar of Buñuel’s Land Without Bread, Tristana, and Viridiana; when you buy a ticket to Discreet Charm, you can get tickets for any Spanish Cinema Now screening for nine dollars by selecting the “Affiliate” option online or showing your ticket stub at the box office.