The Phantom of Liberty

Le fantôme de la liberté aka The Phantom of Liberty   (Luis Buñuel, 1974)

What characterizes Luis Bunuel in the history of films is the fact that he is probably one of the few filmmakers who adapted the surrealist concepts on the big screen in the 1920's, well during the surrealist period. His approach on filmmaking and storytelling brought many new angles to this art. On a career that lasted from 1929 to 1977, Bunuel had the time to direct 34 films.

Le fantôme de la liberté also known as The Phantom of Liberty is one of the best examples of a surrealist approach on a comedy of situations. Far from being Un chien Andalou or L'âge d'or, Le fantôme de la liberty is closer to a film like Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie. One thing charaterizes the films of Bunuel; the feeeling that we are watching the reconstitution of a dream or the dream into the dream. At some point, in these films we never know if it's a dream sequence or realit; it's never explained.

For the film regarded here, Le fantôme de la liberté, we are closer to a surrealist comedy that makes interfere many characters with each other. They populate the film each with his little story. Some stories seem to go in a direction and then at some point they go in a whole other avenue. Other stories are just unconcluded and it gives the viewer a sense of frustration because we are never asked to conclude or finish a story with character. It's like watching people on the street as they pass by us until they turn the corner and someone else comes by and attracts our attention with something completely different.

I tend to think that Bunuel attempted to criticize television that always cuts shows, films or whatever they present with publicities at every 13 or 15 minutes. A critic on the modern society that can't keep its attention on something more than the quarter of a hour. This thinking came to me when I remembered reading an interview with the late Luis Bunuel about the broadcasting of one of his films and was outraged to see it cut in half with a publicity about mattresses if I remember correctly.

Made in 1974, Le fantôme de la liberté is a fresh comedy like only Luis Buñuel could have make, a classic!

A review by Michaël Parent

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