I watched Luis Bunuels’ Discreet Charm for the first time recently on the back of comparisons between it and Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia.
Discreet Charm is a better film –notwithstanding the aesthetic beauty of Von Trier - and is in some ways similar to Bunuel’s earlier Exterminating Angel. In both films Bunuel uses the dinner party as a means to satirize and poke a particular kind of surreal fun at the bourgeoisie.
Both revolve around the genteel rituals of the dinner party, in particular the polite discretion each middle class attendee affords the other. Etiquette demands that certain conversations be off the menu.
In ‘Discreet Charm’ Bunuel is having none of this polite dinner stuff. Instead he interrupts each of his middle class protagonists’ attempts at breaking bread with an excursus into social relations that underpin the surface of this polite society: adultery, drug running, assassinations, militarism, addictions, all are rudely played out to the annoyance of the dinner set, continuously interrupting their attempts to eat. The film is surreal and funny whilst ripping away the mask of polite society, thrusting the reality of domination into the audience and the actors faces.
I wonder what Bunuel would make of ‘Come DineWith Me’? A show that revels in encouraging its working class participants to heights of indiscretion, bitchiness and freakery. A kind of ‘Discreet Charm’ turned on its head?