One of Luis Bunuel's most free-form and purely Surrealist films, consisting of a series of only vaguely related episodes - most famously, the dinner party scene where people sit on ... See full summary »
When the young woman Tristana's mother dies, she is entrusted to the guardianship of the well-respected though old Don Lope. Don Lope is well-liked and well-known because of his honorable ... See full summary »
A surrealist tale of a man and a woman passionately in love with one another, but their attempts to consummate that passion are constantly thwarted by their families, the Church, and bourgeois society.
Caridad de Laberdesque
Celestine, the chambermaid, has new job on the country. The Monteils, who she works for are a group of strange people. The wife is frigid, her husband is always hunting (both animals and ... See full summary »
Several bourgeois friends planning to get together for dinner experience a succession of highly unusual occurrences that interfere with their expected dining enjoyment. Written by
Ed Cannon <email@example.com>
In an interview, co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière revealed he and Bunuel had a starting point for the story but then became stuck. After meeting with the Producer, Serge Silberman, Silberman gave them inspiration when he recounted a story of how he had run into two Brazilian friends in the streets of Paris. Silberman invited these friends to do dinner the following Tuesday, forgetting that he had another dinner that day. It happened so quickly the producer forgot to tell his wife. The two Brazilians and their wives turned up to the Silberman household on the Tuesday night after Mrs Silberman had eaten and settled down for the night, and was watching TV in her dressing gown when the doorbell rang. This real-life event was used in the film for a similar scene. See more »
After sending the terrorist out of his apartment, Rafael's position in the windows changes between shots. See more »
Bunuel is arguably the greatest of all filmmakers. With the possible exceptions of Hitchcock and Fassbinder, I can think of no other director who so completely understood the potential of the medium to transcend the traditional conventions of narrative, or exploited this potential with such élan. And he doesn't rely on special effects: we enter the surreal realm so seamlessly that it at times seems banal. This is especially the case in 'Le charme': banal people have banal sub-consciousnesses.
In order to begin to appreciate Bunuel I had to immerse myself in his milieu, so foreign was his sensibility to the usual expectations I had brought with me into a movie theater.
It took me several viewings to get the 'jokes' if 'Le charme'. The Ambassador from some obscure Latin American country ('Miranda', or 'wonder', a nod to Shakespeare), supports this little microcosm of comfortable Parisian bourgeois respectability with cocaine smuggled in diplomatic pouches. Guests arrive for a dinner party on the wrong evening, and interrupt the hosts having sex. A wake is being held in the back room of the restaurant they are planning to dine at. Ice cubes for martinis must be 'exactly zero degrees'. Elegant ladies sit down for a fashionable afternoon tea, only to be told by their waiter that the restaurant has run out of water (?!!). A soldier then comes to their table and relates his parricidal dream, while the polite ladies listen to him unfazed. One of the ladies discreetly slips away for an assignation with another one's husband. Only Bunuel!
Doubtless the inspiration for this film comes from the Latin Bunuel's lifetime of experience observing the French in situ. Much of its fun comes from simply watching the French be so . . . French. And there is no bourgeois like a French bourgeois!
Much of 'Le Charme' takes place in the nightmares of its characters: you are sitting down for a dinner being hosted by a general, only to realize that you are on stage (with a prompter giving a cue from Don Juan: 'Invite the commander's ghost for dinner!'); your elegant dinner party is broken up by a gang of thugs looking to kill you. However, you are so wedded to the ceremony of the dinner party that you get caught stealing a piece of meat from the table under which you are hiding (and end up dying like a dog!)
I could see this movie a hundred times and always find something new. I would never be bored by it.
Bunuel is very funny, but he is also dense and difficult. One doesn't realize the true complexity of his films because they all seem so effortless. Nothing great comes easily. He's like great Bordeaux: you can't quaff it -- it demands to be sipped.
Bunuel is famous for having the lowest shoot to take ratio of any filmmaker, less than 2:1. Second takes were rare (compare with the reams that end up on the cutting room floor for the typical Spielberg film.) He knew exactly what he wanted to see before he shot. Hitchcock, a director who resembles Bunuel in many ways, famously referred to actors as 'cattle'. For Bunuel, they were probably more like toy soldiers. This isn't to say that he didn't get brilliant performances out of them, especially from his screen alter-ego, the wonderful Fernando Rey.
Henry Miller dubbed his good friend Luis Bunuel "The Last Heretic". I can't think of a higher compliment. Bunuel's memoirs, 'My Last Sigh', are a must read for anyone who wants to have an appreciation of Paris in the 20s, the of art in the last century, and martinis, made as they should be, with gin.
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