SURREALISM AND BUNUEL'S "THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE"
Although Luis Bunuel is considered one of the world's most important film directors, his work is sometimes thought to be confusing and enigmatic. Because Bunuel has acknowledged that Surrealism has been the predominant influence on his work, this dissertation will explore the ideas and style of Bunuel on the basis of the principles of Surrealism as presented by the Surrealist movement.
Chapter One presents general background, analyzing the principles of Surrealism, including its belief that contact with the unconscious is a means of restoring spiritual and political harmony. A keynote is the intentional use of trance and chance to create surprising juxtapositions in order to produce the marvellous, which is to say beauty. Such juxtapositions represent a special use of the Hegelian Dialectic.
Chapter Two narrows the focus, showing Surrealism's avowed affinities with the dream state and film as the major reason film should be an ideal vehicle for the expression of Surrealism.
Chapter Three focuses on Luis Bunuel. I begin with a survey of the influences--including childhood influences on his artistic development--that shaped Bunuel's mature ideas. I then consider five different basic aspects of Bunuel and conclude with an analysis of his ideology in terms of elements he adopted from French and Spanish Surrealism.
Chapter Four presents a portrait of Luis Bunuel based on some of his statements in interviews, articles, conversations, and his writings. Certain of his moral views play a large part in his art. Those views include especially the following: the imperfectability of man, the need for personal responsibility, the value of freedom, the value of revolution, the corruption of institutions, the power of love, the value of the unconscious, and the poetry of dreams and of film.
Chapter Five presents the Surrealist approach to the object, followed by an iconography of Bunuel's recurrent objects and motifs, together with speculation as to the significance of each, based on usage in the films and gleanings from Bunuel's remarks. A close look at Bunuel's film making style is also given.
Chapter Six applies the methodology assembled in the previous five chapters to a subsurface or "unconscious" analysis of the film, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Bunuel's 1972 popular award winner, a film generally taken to be Bunuel's humorous statement in making peace with the bourgeoisie. I show that this is true only on the surface or "conscious" level, and that a coherent, subliminal message of didactic moral content, meant to work on the viewer, is also present. This message is brought to the conscious level by examining the flaws of major characters, the dream content, the elements of trance and chance, the permeability of consciousness, and the iconography.
Finally, a copiously detailed screenplay is provided as an appendix, complete with illustrations.