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Blu-ray Review: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

REVIEWS - BLU-RAY REVIEWS

Discreet

One of the greatest films of all time comes to Blu-ray in a sparkling new edition from StudioCanal.

 

FILM

5 stars


The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a landmark film, truly one of the greatest ever made and perhaps filmmaker Luis Buñuel’s finest (it’s certainly my favorite of his). It’s also so much fun. Buñuel’s anger at institutions was long and storied, and his films were frequently calls for outright anarchy, but Discreet Charm was a turn away from the bitterness and meanness of films like The Exterminating Angel or Los Olvidados towards a genial bemusement at the absurdity of upper-class life. Telling the story of a group of friends whose attempts to get together for dinner are thwarted first by simple misunderstandings, and later by more elaborate, surreal interventions, you get the sense that he’s somewhere, just offscreen, laughing at the whole endeavor, and inviting us to do likewise.

So for those of the opinion that a filmmaker must love or sympathize with his characters, you’re in for a rude awakening. Buñuel rather gleefully skewers everyone who runs across the screen, be they soldiers, businessmen, ambassadors, or bishops. The only ones who come away relatively unscathed are the members of the lower class, who are, in Buñuel’s eyes, dreamers on the run from oppression. Too one-sided for you? Too bad. Unlike the vast majority of filmmakers whose engagement with the outside world stops at one’s record collection, Buñuel never surrendered his righteous indignation at the institutions that maintain a certain type of order. That he funneled this passion through the surreal makes it, paradoxically, feel all the more true. They may not use electrified pianos as torture devices, but then again...

VIDEO

4 stars



StudioCanal’s new Blu-ray release provides a perfect opportunity for those new to the film. Presented in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, it preserves Buñuel’s rich colors and the integrity of a film print. It comes with slight damage marks, though nothing overly distracting, and some of the scenes are a little soft, but the vast majority of it is crisp, sharp, and very appealing. It’s very organic to what one would see projected in a theater, and often even better than that. This is a Region-B locked disc, so those outside of the UK will have to have a Region-B capable player.

AUDIO

5 stars



With options in French, German, and English, one can certainly find a way to make due. The French is the original, though, so I stuck with that, and what I heard suited the film well. This being a film from 1972, it’s not an overly dynamic track, but it’s free of intrusive hissing and never wavers in presenting the highs and lows. Subtitles are available in English and German, as well as French hard-of-hearing.

EXTRAS

4 stars



The only major extra is “A Critical Analysis of the Film” with scholar Peter Evans. He takes us through the production and various interpretations of the events within the film, providing a fairly thorough overview in the piece’s 35 minutes. Evans doesn’t prove to be the most engaging host, seeming a little uncomfortable at times, but the information is worthwhile for any serious cinephile or up-and-comer.

 


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