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The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

Le fantôme de la liberté (original title)
R | | Comedy | 27 October 1974 (USA)
One of Luis Bunuel's most free-form and purely Surrealist films, consisting of a series of only vaguely related episodes - most famously, the dinner party scene where people sit on ... See full summary »

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2 wins. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Julien Bertheau ...
...
...
Paul Frankeur ...
L'aubergiste / Innkeeper
...
Pierre Maguelon ...
Gérard, le gendarme / Policeman
François Maistre ...
Hélène Perdrière ...
La vieille tante / Aunt
...
Claude Piéplu ...
Le commissaire de police / Commissioner
...
Bernard Verley ...
...
L'infirmière / Nurse
...
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Storyline

One of Luis Bunuel's most free-form and purely Surrealist films, consisting of a series of only vaguely related episodes - most famously, the dinner party scene where people sit on lavatories round a dinner table on, occasionally retiring to a little room to eat. Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

27 October 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Specter of Freedom  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$6,172 (USA) (8 November 2002)

Gross:

$6,172 (USA) (8 November 2002)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Director's trademark: [insects] Foucauld places a large framed spider on the mantelpiece after declaring that he is "sick of symmetry" See more »

Goofs

At the beginning of the movie after shooting the prisoners you can see one of the victims moving the hand although he's dead. See more »

Quotes

Le professeur des gendarmes: Madrid was filled with the stench of -pardon my language - food. It was indecent.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Leonard Part 6 (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

Carnaval, opus 9, movement number 12 - Chopin
Written by Robert Schumann
Played on the piano by the sister of the police commissioner
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Bunuel walks a razor line between comedy and tragedy, coming out with few marks as always
27 October 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Luis Bunuel's final film from an original screenplay (by him and collaborator Jean-Claude Carriere), The Phantom of Liberty, befuddled me so much more than the other Bunuel films I've seen that I had to turn it off after twenty minutes, thinking I'd get back to it at some point. I finally did, and it turns out to be maybe not one of Bunuel's absolute best, but it has many memorable moments in his twilight years as a surrealist master. The strange thing is about this film, and I've come to realize it more after seeing Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie again recently (my favorite feature length film of his), is that there is such a line that is walked, like a tightrope walker holding an elephant in one hand and a thumbnail in the other, that one wonders whether this should be taken totally seriously or just with the general hysteria and (crucially) absurdism that laces much of Bunuel's work in his post Mexico period. Sometimes, much like with The Exterminating Angel, it's a little frustrating, even once one understands that having no structure to the film is the point.

For example, in one of the segments that make up the film's loose structure, a woman is visiting a group of Priests out in a house on the outskirts. Much of this sequence is rather serious, dealing with a young man's lusting for an older woman, the rousings and thoughts of the old priests...and then it suddenly, finally, breaks up the tension with an S&M gag! This is very tricky ground that Bunuel covers in the film, and for the most part he ends up pulling it off. At times I wondered if a film like this would work in other hands. It wouldn't; there's a sense of pacing that makes the film seem rather serious, but (as it says on the back of the original video box) it owes as much to Monty Python as it does to the old-school 20's surrealism that got Bunuel up off his feet and into the cinema scene. Sometimes I laughed cause I felt terribly uncomfortable, other times because there was a real pay-off. But in reality, the Phantom of Liberty is the kind of film where many times you just stare and go 'huh, what'? And I mean that as a compliment.

By the way, the film also has two other interesting factors to note, one about an "infamous" scene that did leave me laughing hard, and another more of historical note. The scene where the rich people sit around the table, toilets as their seats, pants down, doing their business, is true absurdism at a peak of intelligence. The other note is that if you wonder if this structure has ever been repeated or expounded upon, Richard Linklater's first film Slacker comes closest, though with a much different tone and style of comedy. Here, we get the upper class, religion, old-time armed forces (gotta love that statue slap the guard in the 19th century segment), and the struggle between keeping with dreams or reality, or both. This is the kind of film that almost puts me off with its irreverence, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't stunned and amazed by the audaciousness as well.


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