EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY (LE FANTOME DE LA LIBERTE) (director/writer: Luis Bunuel; screenwriter: Jean-Claude Carriere; cinematographer: Edmond Richard; editor: Helene Plemianikov; cast: Michel Piccoli (Second Prefect), Julien Bertheau (First Prefect), Claude Piéplu (Commissioner), Jean Rochefort (Lost Girl's Father), Michel Lonsdale (Hatter), Milena Vukotic (Nurse), Monica Vitti (Mrs. Foucauld), Jean-Claude Brialy (Mr. Foucauld), Bernard Verley (Captain), Adriana Asti (Prefect's Sister); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Serge Silberman; The Criterion Collection; 1974-France-with English subtitles)|
|"Bunuel's most uninhibited
venture though audacious and satisfying my Bunuel
pangs, lacks a bite or enough charm to appeal to the
by Dennis Schwartz
The penultimate film of Luis Bunuel ("Diary of a Chambermaid"/"L'Age D'Or"/"The Milky Way") is an uneven, playful, plotless, surrealist drama consisting of a series of bizarre vaguely related episodes that begins with French firing squad executions from Toledo in 1808, during the Napoleonic era, and Spanish patriots shouting "Down with liberty!" and a French officer literally falling madly in love with a statue of a saint. It ends in modern-day Paris as riot police suppress a revolt and a dead woman phones her brother to offer him solace. The most remembered vignette has elegant dinner guests seated on individual lavatories around a table and when ready they excuse themselves to eat their meal in a small room behind a locked door. Other strange scenes include a bourgeois husband and father (Jean-Claude Brialy), who upsets the glass frame display of a large spider on his mantlepiece and states emphatically: “I’m sick of symmetry.” He's also in the habit of waking up every hour to find a strange new visitor in his bedroom: a rooster, followed by an ostrich, and, also, a bicycling postman delivering a letter. Another strange episode has an attractive nurse (Milena Vukotic) check into an inn. Before going to bed, monks enter her room and offer her religious relics. Then they play poker. This is followed by a sadomasochist couple entering the room and performing a sex show. In the room next to them, a young man is reminiscing with his elderly aunt about the wonderful times they had together when he was a boy. After he caresses her hands tenderly and, then over her objections, he pulls back the covers of the bed she's lying in and miraculously a well-preserved naked body is somehow revealed.
Its title refers to the
Karl Marx phrase "the phantom of liberty." Co-written
by Bunuel and Jean-Claude Carriere, the
writers declare that most people shun freedom because
of a fear of it. Bunuel's view is that most
people choose to bury their head in the sand rather
than face the realities of life.
The shocker rails against
hypocritical middle-class virtues and is comically
disturbing, but a fault might be that it takes aim on
too easy targets. Bunuel's most uninhibited venture
though audacious and satisfying my Bunuel pangs, lacks
a bite or enough charm to appeal to the masses.
REVIEWED ON 4/10/2013 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ