This week’s Unforgettable Scene is a doozy indeed.
What do you think of if I say the name Luis Buñuel? If you’ve seen any of his films, chances are you think he’s a rebellious, daring, incredible filmmaker. If you don’t, that’s cool too. I know it’s certainly what I think of him. The man, in my opinion, is one of the best movie directors in history. He does something that few directors have attempted so explicitly, and he does it with style and grace. Particularly in the last stages of his career, Luis Buñuel’s favorite thing to do in his films was absolutely tear the upper and middle class apart. In films such as The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel, he put them in increasingly uncomfortable situations, and treated them like scum. But he never did it in a scathing, bitter way. He always did it in a way that was funny and made the audience laugh, as well as think about what they’re laughing about. Luis Buñuel did something different, and with each film, he found new, more ingenious ways to do it.
The Phantom of Liberty (1974), his penultimate film, has no plot. It is simply a series of vignettes that brutally poke fun at society and its most pompous and idiotic upper class creatures. In one vignette, a married couple are too ignorant to realize their daughter has not been kidnapped and is with them everywhere they go, and they report her missing. In another, a strange man in a park shows children pictures their parents don’t approve of; they are photos of tourist locations across the world, though Buñuel purposefully leads the audience into believing the pictures are pornographic. The mortified parents treat the harmless images as if they are evil.
But there is one vignette in The Phantom of Liberty that I found particularly clever. It is perhaps the most brutal vignette in the movie, though it is absolutely hilarious. In this scene, a bourgeois couple invite friends for ‘dinner.’ In Buñuel’s twisted world, ‘dinner’ does not mean what we think. In this case, ‘dinner’ consists of sitting on toilets, defecating and talking about what a horrid, disgusting thing food is. My description of the scene is nowhere near as darkly satirical as the scene itself, however, so watch it below and tell me what you think: