A famous left-wing satirical comedy about two ex-convicts, one of whom escaped jail and then worked his way up from salesman to factory owner, where he oversees a highly mechanized ... See full summary »
A famous left-wing satirical comedy about two ex-convicts, one of whom escaped jail and then worked his way up from salesman to factory owner, where he oversees a highly mechanized operation where the workers are reduced to mere automatons. Fearful of being exposed over his past, at first by his friend and later by another gangster, the owner chooses to give his factory to the workers, then escapes with his friend to the freedom of the open road. The production company for "A Nous la Liberte" was for more than a decade embroiled in a lawsuit claiming that Charles Chaplin had seen their film and plagiarized many ideas from it as he developed "Modern Times." Written by
When Charles Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) premiered, the original distribution company of À nous la liberté, Tobis, wanted to sue. Director René Clair refused to join such a suit, saying that he considered it a compliment if Charles Chaplin based his film on René Clair's, but the suit went ahead nevertheless. Tobis, sued United Artists and Charles Chaplin for plagiarism. The suit, with separate segments in France and in the US, went on for more than a decade, right through WWII. Charles Chaplin, at the request of his lawyers, finally settled, but never admitted to the charge. René Clair stayed aloof from the affair, and he and Charles Chaplin, whom he greatly admired, remained friends. See more »
[Voice over Singer]:
Liberty is the happy man's due / He enjoys love and skies of blue / But then there are some / Who no worse crimes have done / It's the sad story we tell / From a prison cell
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Rene Clair's first film was the bizarre surrealist short ENTR'ACTE, which had music (and a cameo) by composer Erik Satie. Also showing up briefly in that film were two of Satie's young protégés, Darius Milhaud and George Auric.
When Clair made the talkie A NOUS LA LIBERTE, he hired Auric to do a completely original score, which was not common at the time, and a lot of the scenes were shot to recordings of the Auric music. This was only Auric's 2nd film (after Cocteau's BLOOD OF A POET) but he already shows the mastery that would lead to well over a hundred further scores.
Clair and his Oscar-nominated designer fill the screen with wonderful art deco visuals, and there's a sympathetic cast cemented by the two central characters, Louis and Emile. There are some wonderful physical comedy bits in the film (mostly in the factory), as well as the social satire which I didn't find particularly heavy-handed (although that adjective has been used by others). The fine balance of music, visuals, and comedy makes this a winner.
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