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The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie Review


Essential
Bunuel's marvellously surreal satire pokes lacerating fun at the snobby, unflappable French middle class. Shot like a sitcom, it's a snappy look at the ridiculous inequity of Western society, peeling back the veneer of civilisation in a way that's even more timely now than it was in 1972.

Ambassador Acosta (Rey) and three friends (Frankenur, Seyrig and Ogier) arrive at a country house for dinner, but discover that they're a day early. And rescheduling the meal proves rather complicated, as the men are secretly involved in an illicit drug deal, and hosts Alice and Henri (Audran and Cassel) would rather sneak off for sex. The interruptions to their rescheduled meal become increasingly surreal, including a tea room that runs out of tea, a group of soldiers on manoeuvres and a gang of armed thugs.

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The Milky Way Review


Very Good
Approaching a film like Luis Buñuel's The Milky Way isn't a cut-and-dry affair. Part of you wants to look at it in the pantheon of Buñuel's oeuvre, citing his patented sense of sarcasm, skepticism, and wit. Another idea is to tackle it as a singular film, discuss its theories, its themes and characters, and the director's "point." Another dead end: Way has an episodic surrealism that makes clearly describing it somewhat in the vein of teaching a humpback whale how to solve a Rubik's cube. My editor told me the best way might be to just babble incoherently. [You're doing fine at that so far! -Ed.]

There are only two consistent elements in Buñuel's film: Its mocking of Catholicism and the two bums making a pilgrimage to the altar of St. James. Outside of these elements, there are high-flying moments that disregard time altogether. You'd call it goofy, but it's so well-crafted that you just hold on for dear life through all the outright daffiness that pours out of Buñuel's imagery.

Continue reading: The Milky Way Review

The Milky Way Review


Very Good
Approaching a film like Luis Buñuel's The Milky Way isn't a cut-and-dry affair. Part of you wants to look at it in the pantheon of Buñuel's oeuvre, citing his patented sense of sarcasm, skepticism, and wit. Another idea is to tackle it as a singular film, discuss its theories, its themes and characters, and the director's "point." Another dead end: Way has an episodic surrealism that makes clearly describing it somewhat in the vein of teaching a humpback whale how to solve a Rubik's cube. My editor told me the best way might be to just babble incoherently. [You're doing fine at that so far! -Ed.]

There are only two consistent elements in Buñuel's film: Its mocking of Catholicism and the two bums making a pilgrimage to the altar of St. James. Outside of these elements, there are high-flying moments that disregard time altogether. You'd call it goofy, but it's so well-crafted that you just hold on for dear life through all the outright daffiness that pours out of Buñuel's imagery.

Continue reading: The Milky Way Review

The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie Review


Essential
From the moment his 16-minute Surrealist dirty bomb Un Chien andalou was dropped on an unsuspecting Paris in 1929 until the time of his death in Mexico in 1983, director Luis Buñuel patiently and gleefully held court as cinema's most steadfast, outspoken, and off-handedly inflammatory enemy of "polite" society. He built a career on his contempt for unexamined social mores and the gluttonous, self-righteous civic and religious leaders who perpetuated them, and he wasn't just fooling around. As a representative attack, consider this sequence from his 1930 feature L'Âge d'or: We're informed by intertitle that over the course of a long weekend in a locked mountain chateau, a group of depraved rapists and murderers have been having their way with a bevy of adolescent male and female virgins, whom they then torture and kill. The scene is based on the same Marquis de Sade material that served as the basis for Pier Paolo Pasolini's unconscionable Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom, the difference being that here Buñuel has thoughtfully included Jesus Christ among the deviants. He is even seen to drag an injured, escaping girl off screen, the assumption being, when she doesn't return, that He has finished her off. Was Paris burning? No, but once word of L'Âge d'or got around, you may rest assured that some of her theaters were.

Buñuel's cheerful blasphemy was, as you can imagine, shocking, but his commitment to relaying narrative through free-associative, non-linear images - his commitment, that is, to the Surrealist creed that raged among Parisian artists - was seen by many to be as grave an affront. Audiences grew hostile, it seems, when, in Buñuel's films, livestock lounged about in the beds of debutantes or miffed gamekeepers shot and killed children to blow off steam. Buñuel, who was a Spaniard, suffered a more concrete hardship when Fascists took power in Madrid in 1938; he eventually settled in Mexico in 1946, returning to Spain in 1961 where General Franco banned his first new film, Viridiana, just as hurriedly as the jury at Cannes awarded it the Palme d'or. And so Buñuel relocated to France, now in his 60s, and at an age when most directors have retired or have long since begun recycling their own material, he entered one of the most fertile periods enjoyed by any filmmaker anywhere. There are masterpieces scattered among Buñuel's French films like confetti, but in his 1972 comedy The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, one of cinema's most brilliant directors made the most brilliant film of his career.

Continue reading: The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie Review

Ran Review


Extraordinary
The average movie enthusiast has probably heard the name Akira Kurosawa mentioned with reverence in pretentious film-snob circles or in almost any film school, but chances are the average movie enthusiast probably hasn't bothered to ever really watch any of Kurosawa's films, which is a real shame. For in these films lies the expression of unbelievable talent - a poetry of motion and color - created and painted by a true master of the art of modern cinema. Now in theatrical reissue, casual moviegoers once again have the chance to see Ran, Kurosawa's masterpiece, on the big screen.

Kurosawa's closest colleagues addressed him as "sensei," a respectful and affectionate term meaning "teacher" or "master," and for good reason: He is without question, the master of Japanese cinema and an artist whose film legacy spanned 50 years of moviemaking. He influenced filmmakers such as Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese and countless others. For example, the movie A Fistful of Dollars was really nothing more than Western remake of the Kurosawa film Yojimbo, and The Magnificent Seven was a remake of Seven Samurai. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Kurosawa four times in his career, and Ran has won countless awards, including Best Film from the esteemed National Society of Film Critics. The film was Kurosawa's obsession for more than 10 years and he feared that the movie would never be made. When it finally did get financing, it became Japan's most expensive film ever made at the time.

Continue reading: Ran Review

Ran Review


Extraordinary
The average movie enthusiast has probably heard the name Akira Kurosawa mentioned with reverence in pretentious film-snob circles or in almost any film school, but chances are the average movie enthusiast probably hasn't bothered to ever really watch any of Kurosawa's films, which is a real shame. For in these films lies the expression of unbelievable talent - a poetry of motion and color - created and painted by a true master of the art of modern cinema. Now in theatrical reissue, casual moviegoers once again have the chance to see Ran, Kurosawa's masterpiece, on the big screen.

Kurosawa's closest colleagues addressed him as "sensei," a respectful and affectionate term meaning "teacher" or "master," and for good reason: He is without question, the master of Japanese cinema and an artist whose film legacy spanned 50 years of moviemaking. He influenced filmmakers such as Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese and countless others. For example, the movie A Fistful of Dollars was really nothing more than Western remake of the Kurosawa film Yojimbo, and The Magnificent Seven was a remake of The Seven Samurai. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Kurosawa four times in his career, and Ran has won countless awards, including Best Film from the esteemed National Society of Film Critics. The film was Kurosawa's obsession for more than 10 years and he feared that the movie would never be made. When it finally did get financing, it became Japan's most expensive film ever made at the time.

Continue reading: Ran Review

The Phantom Of Liberty Review


Good
In 1972, when he was in his 80s, director Luis Buñuel released what is very likely his masterpiece, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. The film is a marvel for a lot of reasons, but one of its hallmarks is the constant digressions of its plot; it moves unexpectedly from dream sequence to reality in ever-deepening convolutions, as though Buñuel placed equal weight on our waking and irrational lives. In his next film, 1974's The Phantom of Liberty, he dispensed with plot, as it is traditionally understood, altogether. In this penultimate outing, Buñuel focuses on the role of chance in life, on the free-associative substance of dreams, and on the arbitrariness of social conventions, and he extends that focus to the film's structure itself.

The continuity of The Phantom of Liberty isn't entirely random; the plot moves from one character's set of circumstances to another's, taking the film with it and only rarely returning to previous narrative strands. (Richard Linklater's Slacker is an example of another film - perhaps the only other film - with a vaguely comparable structure.) The Phantom of Liberty begins with the execution of Spanish partisans by Napoleonic troops in Toledo in 1808, an incident memorialized in Goya's famous painting "Third of May." The film, in fact, opens with this image - and it recurs more dependably than any character does - the intended irony being that the partisans were fighting against the greater freedoms that the Napoleonic Code afforded, and thus against liberty. Among the French troops is a captain whom we follow into a cathedral; there he makes sexual advances on the statue of a certain Dona Elvira, whose body rests beneath the cathedral floor, until he is assaulted by the statue of her late husband, which kneels next to hers. To this point the film has been narrated, and here the scene shifts to a nanny in contemporary times who is reading the captain's tale out loud in a park. As she reads, the young girls in her charge are approached by a shifty man who offers to show the girls some photos, warning that no grown-ups are to see them. We then meet the father of one of the girls ("I'm sick of symmetry," he announces while handling a display box containing a giant spider); he and his wife are outraged when shown the photos, and later the man's sleep is haunted by a mailman, who delivers a letter to his bed, and what I took to be an ostrich sauntering casually through the room. The following day this man's doctor explains that he's not interested in his patients' dreams, but the man insists that he wasn't dreaming and offers the letter he received as proof.

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Le Trou Review


Excellent
For a movie about digging a hole, Le Trou is pretty damn good. In typical French fashion (see also Rififi), the film utilitzes long, unbroken, often dialogue-free shots to dramatize its story: a simple one of prisoners attempting an ambitious escape from prison. While the beginning is stagey and stilted, once the movie gets going it's hard to look away, despite a 2 1/2 hour running time. Excellent work from Jacques Becker.

Diary Of A Chambermaid Review


Essential
When this movie was over, I felt frustrated, almost disappointed. But the more I thought about Diary of a Chambermaid, the more I came to admire it.

The themes of obsessive desire, inhibitions imposed by society and ridicule of conventional bourgeois values dominate Buñuel's work, and Diary of a Chambermaid is no exception to that. Unlike some of Buñuel's most surrealistic films (L'Age d'Or, Un Chien Andalou, Belle de Jour), Diary is fairly straightforward. No one but Luis Buñuel can combine so brilliantly sexuality, perversity, and humor against the backdrop of fascism's in France in the early 1920s.

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That Obscure Object Of Desire Review


Excellent
Pain is a pretty personal thing. Some people avoid it at all costs, while others are inexplicably drawn to it. In Luis Buñuel's That Obscure Object of Desire, the surrealist master's final film, pain becomes the currency of life and love.

The film begins as Matieu, a wealthy widower, boards the express from Seville to Paris and, as the train is pulling from the station, dumps a bucket over the head of a woman who is running after him. His fellow passengers being understandably baffled, Matieu proceeds to explain what led to his action.

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The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie Movie Review

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie Movie Review

Bunuel's marvellously surreal satire pokes lacerating fun at the snobby, unflappable French middle class. Shot...

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