The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Luis Buñuel was one of cinema’s greatest film directors. From his first short, the Surrealist classic Un Chien Andalou in 1929, through The Exterminating Angel in 1962, to Belle de Jour in 1967, and his last, That Obscure Object of Desire in 1977, Buñuel created a brilliant body of work, which has rarely been equalled.
But film wasn’t his only passion. In his autobiography, My Last Breath, Buñuel gave his own special recipe on how to create the perfect Martini.
‘To provoke, or sustain, a reverie in a bar, you have to drink English gin, especially in the form of the dry martini. To be frank, given the primordial role in my life played by the dry martini, I think I really ought to give it at least a page. Like all cocktails, the martini, composed essentially of gin and a few drops of Noilly Prat, seems to have been an American invention. Connoisseurs who like their martinis very dry suggest simply allowing a ray of sunlight to shine through a bottle of Noilly Prat before it hits the bottle of gin. At a certain period in America it was said that the making of a dry martini should resemble the Immaculate Conception, for, as Saint Thomas Aquinas once noted, the generative power of the Holy Ghost pierced the Virgin’s hymen “like a ray of sunlight through a window-leaving it unbroken.”
‘Another crucial recommendation is that the ice be so cold and hard that it won’t melt, since nothing’s worse than a watery martini. For those who are still with me, let me give you my personal recipe, the fruit of long experimentation and guaranteed to produce perfect results. The day before your guests arrive, put all the ingredients-glasses, gin, and shaker-in the refrigerator. Use a thermometer to make sure the ice is about twenty degrees below zero (centigrade). Don’t take anything out until your friends arrive; then pour a few drops of Noilly Prat and half a demitasse spoon of Angostura bitters over the ice. Stir it, then pour it out, keeping only the ice, which retains a faint taste of both. Then pour straight gin over the ice, stir it again, and serve.
‘(During the 1940s, the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York taught me a curious variation. Instead of Angostura, he used a dash of Pernod. Frankly, it seemed heretical to me, but apparently it was only a fad.)’
This wasn’t the first time, the genius director had shared his favored drink, in his Oscar-winning film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Buñuel had his actors prepare the perfect Martini.
This was no affectation, as Buñuel had his cocktail everyday and once remarked:
“If you were to ask me if I’d ever had the bad luck to miss my daily cocktail, I’d have to say that I doubt it; where certain things are concerned, I plan ahead.”
As discussed in his essential autobiography, Buñuel’s passions for drinking, smoking and a love of handguns, defined who he was. It was a combination which would, you would think, make Buñuel the perfect choice as a director for one of those 1960s or 1970s James Bond movies. David Cairns, over at his excellent film blog, Shadowplay suggested this idea a couple of years back, proposing a Bond movie cast from some of Buñuel’s previous casts, with Dan O’Herlihy as Bond and Fernando Rey as the villain. Cairns also proposes:
Could we resist Catherine Deneuve as Bond girl Anne Dalou, and could she resist playing it if the high priest of cinematic surrealism were in charge? Zachary Scott, fresh from THE YOUNG ONE, could play Bond’s CIA counterpart Felix Leiter. Oh wait, he died in 1965. Damn. OK, Bernie Hamilton then. Sean Connery always thought Felix should be black — I presume on the basis that it was the kind of thankless part where nobody would object, and therefore you should make the effort.
Ken Adam, I submit, would have had a great time building sets for Bunuel, who loved “secret passages leading on to darkness”.
THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL would make a great title for a Bond. Imagine what Shirley Bassey could do with a lyric like that. Much better than QUANTUM OF SLOSH, anyway.
But let’s call our imaginary Bunuel Bond GRAN CASINO ROYALE. The globe-trotting narrative will take us through Spain, the U.S.A., Mexico and France. Bond will battle tarantulas, snakes and flesh-eating ants, and face enemies armed with razors, rifles, burlap sacks and buggy-whips. All in search of a mysterious box with undisclosed, buzzing contents…