(director/writer: Luis Bunuel; screenwriter: Jean-Claude Carriere; cinematographer: Edmond Richard; editor: Helene Plemiannikov; music: Galaxie Musique; cast: Fernando Rey (Don Rafael Acosta), Delphine Seyrig (Simone Thévenot), Stéphane Audran (Alice Sénéchal), Bulle Ogier (Florence), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Henri Sénéchal), Paul Frankeur (Francois Thevenot), Julien Bertheau (Mgr Dufour), Milena Vukotic (Ines), Claude Piéplu (Colonel), Maria Gabriella Maione (Guerilla), Michel Piccoli (Home Secretary), François Maistre (Inspector Delecluze); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Serge Silberman; Criterion Collection, The; 1972-France-in French with English subtitles)

“It’s all too familiar Buñuel and lacks the bite of some of his earlier and sharper edged films.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The 72-year-old Luis Buñuel (“Robinson Crusoe”/”Nazarin”/”Viridiana”) directs and writes this surrealist classic black comedy that won an Oscar for best foreign film. It has a vigorous go at the bourgeois as they crave order and fine wine and elegant food, but find that life has bumps on the road that makes them uncomfortable.

The Senechals, Parisian wealthy businessman Henri and his sex-starved wife Alice (Jean-Pierre Cassel and Stephane Audran), after a mixup on dinner dates Alice finds that their guests arrive an evening too early and she makes plans to do it again when her hubby is home. The guests include Don Rafael Acosta (Fernando Rey), a haughty ambassador from a fictitious banana republic country called Miranda; the sneaky snobbish sophisticate Francois Thevenot (Paul Frankeur) and his adulterous wife Simone (Delphine Seyrig) and her much younger fashion conscious sister Florence (Bulle Ogier). They are joined by the church bishop (Julien Bertheau), who volunteers to be the gardener for the Senechals (thinking of himself as a working priest) and decides to hang out with the bourgeois as they await their dinner date. They all make a connection, sharing a common bond in their snotty attitude and hypocrisies.

They are interrupted by a series of odd events, whereby they never get to finish the delicious lamb meal awaiting them on their luxury country home. Instead we get to view a number of bizarre dreams, from characters that range from the key male ones to ones who have nothing to do with the story; a colonel (Claude Piéplu), on military maneuvers, dropping in on the Senechals with his fellow officers to drink and dine and smoke pot; terrorists from the Republic of Miranda breaking in to the Senechals mansion to spread third-world terror; and police arresting the Senechals and their guests, except for the bishop, for being involved with an international drug smuggling ring and finding that the French home secretary wants them released in order to have good relations with Miranda.

Buñuel targets the bourgeoisie, the conventions of high society, the church, the state and the military, and has fun playing on their sneakiness, dispiriting chic sophistication, guilt-trip dreams, collective phobias and inability to find relief from their empty lives through the civilized ritual of dining on gourmet food. The superb cast do a great job relaying the wit behind this prankster satire, but it’s all too familiar Buñuel and lacks the bite of some of his earlier and sharper edged films.

REVIEWED ON 8/25/2009 GRADE: B+   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/