Two Movies, Two Eras, Two Schools of Thought, Same Deal
Steve Bessette, Entertainment Editor
Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie aren’t shot-for-shot twinsies, but after watching about 45 minutes of Discreet Charm I thought to myself, “Great Scott Fitzgerald, this is Inception.”
Discreet Charm (1972) is another one of Buñuel’s stick-it-to-the-French-rich-folk movies for which he was lauded. Inception (2010) is Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus of mind-bending narratives that he is known for (Memento, The Prestige). Buñuel was a surrealist, so anything of his didn’t have to be overtly advertised as inordinately trippy. His stuff was flint in the burgeoning of art cinema in the age of Dali and a nominal auteur force post-Nouvelle Vague. In Midnight in Paris, he’s the guy Owen Wilson tells to make a film about a group of rich people who can’t leave a dinner party and turn into animals (The Exterminating Angel, 1962). Discreet Charm, similar to Angel, is about a group of wealthy couples who keep attempting to have a dinner party, but every time they get close to sitting at the table together, something goes wrong and prevents it, prompting them to try again the next night. Eventually it becomes clear that this is a series of dreams, and when the dreams start or end is just the beginning of where the two films unite.
The big difference is that the dream spelunking in Inception is presented as technology and navigated psychologically. Discreet Charm’s dreams are the bread and butter of surrealism, hyper-unrealistic vehicles for the journeys of the characters and the statements behind them. Although Inception could be taken as a blockbuster that’s for the bang-bang-explosion moviegoer and also the high-concept thinker moviegoer, let’s face it, it has the exoskeleton of an action flick. Discreet Charm is more of an experiential artwork, though still pretty entertaining, and because it allows us to explore more freely, we don’t find people on the internet drawing up Discreet Charm dream road maps.
Here’s a few of the similarities:
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