À Nous la Liberté (1931) Poster

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Classic French masterpiece.
uds34 November 2003
Sobering indeed that this innovative and quite unique early French "talkie" has garnered but four reviews. This is akin to the Cistine Chapel going six months without visitors!

As any student of early film would have discovered, the premise of "A Nous La Liberte" was undoubtedly "lifted" and used by Chaplin in his revered MODERN TIMES. Others have mentioned this aspect.

The film is a satirical comment, almost a control experiment from one viewpoint, focusing on the ideology of big business, and in regard particularly to newly gestated industrial technology, just how the individual is viewed as little more than a means to an end. A resource to be used and no more. Clair poses the question, is the worker..the LITTLE man - any more or less a free-thinking and needful entity than the embittered prisoner serving out his time?

The film follows the fortunes of two ex-cons. One makes it to the top of the industrialised ant-hill, the other makes it to the nearest sheltered alleyway or park bench. Whilst Clair experiments freely here with music and song, the Metropolis-like buildings lend a sombre note to the proceedings at hand.

Stylistically dated perhaps now, and the humor betrays its thirties origins, nevertheless at its core the observations made still hold true. This remains a critically important cinematic benchmark not just in terms of early French cinema but also in terms of a director's extraordinary vision so many years ago.
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Freedom for ever.
Spikeopath21 September 2008
Emile and Louis are two jailed friends who dream of freedom and plan to escape. Louis is successful and becomes a phonograph factory tycoon, after Emile finally breaks out he seeks work at Louis' factory. Tho initially the harshness of industrialisation keeps them poles apart, they both come to realise that friendship and being honest to oneself is far more rewarding than love or any sort of financial gain.

À nous la liberté {orginaly titled Liberté chérie} is a truly biting musical satire written and directed by the considerably talented René Clair. Filmed without a script, with Clair giving his actors free licence to improvise, the picture focuses on the dehumanisation of workers at an industrial plant. Shifting as it does from prison to this monstrosity place of work, the viewer is forced to wonder just exactly which is the prison of the picture? For workers trundle in to work, punching in to a clock and sitting at a conveyor belt for hours on end, they are merely robots for this corporate machine, life is indeed desperately dull.

Clair pulls no punches in portraying everyone who doesn't work on the shop floor as greedy capitalist schemers, one sequence literally see the elite grasping for Francs strewn by the mounting storm. This wind of change also releases Emile and Louis from their respective constraints, and it's thru this change that we the viewer are rewarded with a truly uplifting ending that closes the film magnificently. The picture was a flop on its initial release, managing to offend parties from various corners of the globe, but now in this day and age the film has come to be hailed as something of a French masterpiece, coming some five years before Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times {Clair's camp even wanted to sue Chaplin for plagiarism, but Clair actually took it as a compliment}, this clearly is the template movie for industrial indictment. At times devilishly funny, at others poignantly sad, À nous la liberté is a cinematic gem that all serious film lovers should digest at least once. 9/10
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Marvellous early sound film
ouija-321 September 2000
Clair's À nous la liberté is a wonderful satire of modern mass production, magnificently shot, directed, decently acted and with impressive sets. The satirical content is stressed but not too on-your-face. The main reaction to the film is delight.

Some of the sequences were an obvious inspiration to Chaplin, whose masterpiece Modern Times resembles this film quite a lot both in the way it looks as well as thematically.

The picture and sound quality, at least in the version shown on Finnish TV, are superb which is surprising considering the age of the film.

The music is good and well used, except the songs which are slightly irritating. Still, this is a great and pleasing film with a very amusing scene in the end, taking place at the opening of a new factory.
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Slapstick Gallic Satire Skewers Industrialism and Corporate Greed Between the World Wars
EUyeshima24 July 2007
This early talkie is an unexpected joy to watch and an artful piece of transitional cinema. It's difficult to believe that Charlie Chaplin claimed he never saw René Clair's fanciful 1931 musical comedy since it predates many of the same leitmotifs that came up in "Modern Times" five years later, including pointed jabs at corporate greed interlaced with Keystone Cops-style slapstick. In fact, Clair seems completely inspired by Chaplin in the way he carefully orchestrates the chase scenes and the robotic assembly line in this film, so much so that Chaplin borrowed back the visual cues in "Modern Times".

Clair sets up his story as an elaborate parable centered on two convicts, best friends Émile and Louis, who make toy horses in the prison assembly line. In a long-planned attempt to escape, Émile escapes thanks to a generous leg-up from Louis, who is caught and returned back to their cell. Years pass, and Émile becomes a successful industrialist in charge of a phonograph manufacturing business. Meanwhile, Louis serves out his term and upon release, ironically finds himself working in the assembly line of Émile's factory. After some hesitation, Louis and Émile reunite and join forces with a rapid-fire series of chaotic complications leading the two friends to realize that a life away from work may be their true fate.

The film master does not belabor his sociopolitical statements about materialism, but it is intriguing in hindsight to appreciate the film's prescience in showing France disconnected from the encroaching Nazi menace. Moreover, the film boasts startling visual elements thanks to Lazare Meerson's unmistakably Expressionist art direction. Henri Marchand and Raymond Cordy make a fine comedy team as Émile and Louis, though what really shines is the timeless spirit that Clair imbues this film. The 2002 Criterion Collection DVD includes two deleted scenes, a brief 1998 interview with Clair's widow, and a twenty-minute short, "Entr'acte", that Clair made with French artists Francis Picabia and Erik Satie. Speaking of Chaplin, in an audio essay, film historian David Robinson describes the plagiarism suit that the film's producers brought against Charlie Chaplin when "Modern Times" was released.
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One of the great masterpieces of the early French Sound Cinema.
PaulinCa20 October 1999
I was lucky enough to see "A Nous La Liberte" along with it's sister film (in my mind, anyway) "Le Million" at an early age at the Museum of Modern Art. I have never gotten over them. They are both miracles of studio production with even many of the exteriors built in studio. Both films were designed by the great Lazare Meerson and evoke the magical Paris of the 20's. Both films make wonderful, inventive use of music and song, though neither one is exactly a Musical in the modern sense. "A Nous La Liberte" is also interesting for having been Chaplin's inspiration for much of "Modern Times."
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The satire may be dated and gauche, but the film still takes off when it focuses on physical comedy and visual cinema.(possible spoiler in last paragraph)
the red duchess21 December 2000
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this on a double-bill with Clair's silent classic 'Paris Qui Dort', and was initially dismayed that the feathery magic of that film was replaced by clunking ironies, heavy compositions, and shrill, caterwauling 'music'. 'A Nous la liberte' is in many ways a forerunner to 'Modern Times', with about as much political subtlety - the factory assembly line disrupted by an inept worker would be 'borrowed' by Chaplin, although, instructively, the sequence is much funnier in the Hollywood film, perhaps because the little tramp is such a recognised, beloved figure, and the rather non-descript Louis is not; or perhaps because Chaplin was such a master at pantomime, and enlivened the mechanical scene with a vibrant display of physical virtuosity; more probably, it is because Chaplin developed the scene, showing not only the effect of human error on the most perfect of technological systems, but also the dehumanising, mechanistic effect of emergent modern capitalism on its workers.

Clair sees life for the worker under capitalism as identical with the life of a convict in prison - both systems seek to stamp out or rigidly order humanity, turn people into socially acceptable machines. With humanity so thoroughly contained, it is not surprising that it should be a fundamental human emotion - love - that causes anarchic chaos in this system.

Clair also links capitalism with criminality - the Big Boss in the film, the man who engenders the new technocratic society, who unites workers and the wealthy, past (his own, his friend, his blackmailers), present and future (the new machines), is an escaped convict. Despite the rigid heaviness of the buildings and machines, and the system they uphold, the status quo is ultimately transitory and fragile. It's easy to climb the social ladder, but just as easy to fall, as Emile shows with remarkably good grace. No such system - and capitalism claims to be natural - can ever offer stability or genuine security for the exploiters who need it most: capitalism carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Clair is also canny or prescient in linking the new capitalism with emerging fascism throughout Europe - Emile's factory is ordered on crypto-military lines, with uniforms, symbols and leader's iconography.

If Clair's politics are heavy-handed, his visual sensibility is not, and this film transcends itself when it looses its political shackles and gives into subversive whimsy, a rondelay of chases, fist-fights, drunken fracas, Bunuellian iconoclasm. Clair may not have been as profound a director as Renoir or Vigo, but neither had his eye, or his way with orchestrating movement, of creating chaos from order, and vice versa. The climactic surreal opening ceremony is obvious politically, but a visual stunner, with even nature undermining the narcissistic parades of power, in a way that anticipates Fellini and Kusturica.

The spare, oppressive sets are a delight, from the 'Metropolis'-like factory, to the unwitting mirror-home of the Big Boss. The end, in its rueful freedom, is pure Renoir. The inspired and inventive use of sound doesn't obscure the fact that much of this movie is beautifully filmed silent cinema.
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Charming early French comedy, with a fine score
LCShackley10 July 2007
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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Timeless French classic
Steamcarrot22 November 2006
This is a little gem of a film that doesn't date nearly as much as you would think, considering it come from the early thirties. The masterful hand of director Rene Clair overcomes an insubstantial plot and imbues the film with some fantastic visuals, humorous satire and some good clean knockabout fun. Two prisoners escape from custody and one reaches the top of the ladder while the other clings onto the bottom rung. Clair makes his feeling about capitalism clear by showing how the worker under the capitalist is as much a prisoner as the people locked in the jail. But any political overtones are not so much that they interrupt with the comic narrative and the film merrily continues with it's chases, bottom-kicking and all manner of good-natured silliness. Highly recommended.
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An all time classic
harry_tk_yung19 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Made a full 8 years before Gone with the Wind and Wizard of Oz, "LA LIBERTÉ À NOUS" does not come across as remote at all even today. Whenever reference is made to this film, too much attention is invariably given to the plagiarism alleged against Charles Chaplin. There is in fact much more in "Freedom for us" than the assembly line syndrome. For example, there is a little bit of a Jean Valjean in the escaped convict turned tycoon Louis, except that instead of a Javert hot on his pursuit, he has old buddy Emile left behind in the escape (reluctantly) coming into his life again after subsequent release. Emile's own episode has just a little bit of a Cyrano flavour, a passionate love destined to be unfruitful. In addition to obvious social satire, the movie itself takes the form of a light musical or operetta at one time, and farcical Three Stooges madcap at another, and winds up with the happy wanderers on the road again. In addition to the two hugely lovable characters, the movie also offers some beautifully framed shots utilising the lines and angles of buildings and structures, and then adds life by fluid movements of human objects. An all time classic.
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"Life is beautiful when you're allowed to be yourself"
nin-chan3 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This film is feral, anarchic energy, imbued with Clair's keen intelligence and siphoned through crowd-pleasing Chaplin-y slapstick. I am constantly reminded of Jean Vigo's timeless "Conduit Zero" and "L'Atalante" as I guffaw to "A Nous La Liberte"- this one, through the course of a lean, sinewy 83 minutes, deconstructs the wholly arbitrary norms and myths that constitute our mechanized, capitalistic civilization before illustrating just how easily these protocol are upset and subverted. I have learned that Rene Clair had previously lent his hand to the surrealists in the silent era, and that does not surprise me in the least, for this film is, for all its cynical realism, is Surrealist in agenda, a thorough exploration of Liberty.

The premise is simple- two convicts escape from prison and pursue vastly disparate avenues outside penitentiary walls. One becomes an unscrupulous opportunist and erects a financial empire, the (rather effete) other is more smitten with a flighty factory girl than money. By a dialectical process the two eventually renounce chimeras like wealth and marriage, opting for a life of Deleuze/Guattari-esquire nomadism, true freedom unrestrained by social expectation. Clair is rarely subtle with his jibes- the factory workers are represented as wholly expendable vessels of labor, weighed and assigned with serial numbers. Their lives are mechanized to the point of eating slop from a conveyor belt.

The Paris that Clair evokes is not a romanticised, perfumed city of profusion and resplendence, but a graven concrete sarcophagus, populated with automatons of all varieties. The sole glimpses we get of organic flora are of wretched-looking daffodils, offered to an unappreciative object of affection. Most biting are Clair's sketches of the bourgeoisie, whose cultivated tastes revolve around rumor-mongering, rococo decor and totally maudlin and cloying music. Everywhere carnality peers deviously beneath the gaping crevices, seething and sizzling beneath the Victorian prudishness- look at the rakish dilettante who woos the tycoon's wife, and the virile factory worker who commands the secretary's amorous attentions.

Through the course of the film, Clair's intent is in drawing parallels between life in the penitentiary with dehumanizing industrial life and stuffy bourgeois society, illuminating the worrying commonalities that all three share. The conclusive insight, then, is truly surrealist- man constructs his own prisons, circumscribing the possibilities of existence with norms that he then perpetuates with bad faith. When this epiphany strikes our phonograph magnate, he becomes privy to the sheer tentativeness of these stifling dogmas, and engages in a journey towards freedom, culminating in his renunciation of wealth and reputation.

The latter half of the film is a STINGING lash against cant and cupidity, and the film reaches a summit in one of the most uproarious and singularly BRILLIANT sections in French film- a fierce gust of wind disrupts an octagenarian's garrulous, grandiloquent (and nauseatingly vacuous) speech, blowing away the elaborate ornamentation adorning the speaker's podium and scattering a profusion of overhead banknotes across the compound. The gathered industrialists resist temptation for a few moments before a madcap scramble for cash ensues, the bumbling old speechmaker struggling to recite his script in the resultant mania, the sole bastion of 'order' in this wild debacle. This is Clair's consummate statement- beneath the ostentation and contrived niceties, we can barely obscure our animalistic greed. The wind blows beneath surfaces and reveals mercenary ardor.

A political film that you can show to your kids, as well as a consummate, meticulous masterpiece on par with any Keaton, Chaplin or Tati. Like those artists and Friedrich Nietzsche, Clair knows all about the subversive power of laughter. We must take his approach to life, to nurture the capacity to laugh at all the things we take so gravely, our environs and even ourselves. This is the wellspring of ecstasy and freedom in life. I wonder if Luis Bunuel was a fan...
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puzzow27 July 2007
I profess-- I never heard of this movie nor this director till I watched it tonight. As pointed out, the film has a socialist message-- mainly a scaffolding to hang some very clever physical humor on, though it manages to fit in a few astute (likewise hysterical) observations about modern industrial society. The male leads are absolutely charming and have great chemistry. The style of the film is something in itself. The soundtrack (one of the first original ones to be used in a film) is intertwined with the action on screen, and occasionally the actors sing along with it almost as if this were a musical...but not quite. There are moments of pantomime infused with talking scenes, almost as if the director was trying figure out how to work his style for making silent films into talkies. In total, it's a bit odd-- but it works! And it's unique. And far from dated-- it gave me quite a few belly-laughs.
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Modern Crimes
wes-connors14 June 2010
From their French prison, convicts Raymond Cordy (as Louis) and Henri Marchand (as Emile) take advantage of silly putty cell bars to carry out a daring escape. The industrious Mr. Cordy is successful, but spirited Mr. Marchand is caught in the act. On the outside, Cordy takes advantage of the assembly-line work he performed in prison to become a prosperous phonograph records tycoon. Ironically, he finds his old friend Marchand working the factory production line, after he also escapes from jail. They renew their friendship, which has been threatened by industry.

Director Rene Clair makes this an artful picture; from the great bicycle stunt win to the flying money, it's excellent - but, alas, not too amusing. The soundtrack, featuring music by Georges Auric, is effective - but, the spoken words seem unnecessary. "A nous la liberte" might have worked better as a non-talking picture. In a case where Mr. Clair felt imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, Charlie Chaplin employed a similar look and thesis for his "Modern Times" (1936). Although Mr. Chaplin's classic is counted as his first fully sound film, it is tellingly silent.

******* A nous la liberte (12/18/31) Rene Clair ~ Raymond Cordy, Henri Marchand, Rolla France, Paul Ollivier
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Chaplin Did Better
Michael_Elliott28 February 2008
A nous la liberte (1931)

** (out of 4)

I know this film is hailed as a masterpiece and I know Chaplin's Modern Times owes a lot to it but that doesn't mean the film worked for me. Clair's satirical look at factory workers and their owners who are willing to exchange them for machinery is suppose to be a comedy but I'm not sure which part of it is. Having now seen the film for myself, I can see why the original company went after Chaplin because there's no way in hell that this film didn't influence Chaplin and his masterpiece. However, to me it seems Chaplin saw a technically brilliant but soul less film and made a much better picture. Credit should be given to Clair because the technical look of this film is brilliant and the music score is top notch but that's about as far as my admiration goes. There wasn't a single time in this film where I laugh and I only cracked a smile a couple times. The film is clearly spoofing the factory workers yet I could never see any of the spoof Had you not told me this was a comedy then everything on screen comes off as drama because it doesn't seem to me that there was any attempt for laughs. Another problem I had was the dialogue, which was great but at the same time it kind of went against what was going on in the scenes. The movie is filmed in a silent manor and in my opinion it probably would have worked best as a silent movie. The spoken words because somewhat distracting from the technical side of things so it came off to me as Clair was either making a silent film and later decided to make it sound or the film is just uneven.
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This classic french movie is very full in it's wide range of styles...
dwpollar12 March 2001
This classic french movie is very full in it's wide range of styles. It has comedy, music, suspense, and a moral message. The version I saw was very limited in it's English subtitles. This would have made it much better if I was able to understand the words to the songs and more dialogue. Overall a well done depiction of society entering into the mechanized world.
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Who's stealing from who?
Spuzzlightyear2 January 2005
It;s easy to see, while watching À nous la liberté how much Rene Clair loves the cinema, full of interesting angles and ideas, it's easy how everyone from Chaplin to heck even Jamison Handy ripped ideas off of him for this film. This film is more flash then substance, and I am sure Clair knows it. The story is simple, 2 con men escape prison, one ends up more financially successful then the other. Although rich with neat ideas, it's incredibly boring at times, and sometimes you're waiting for the next nouveau idea to come up to start picking things up again. Much has been said about Chaplin "borrowing" from this film, and that's painfully obvious. But watching this film one wonders how much Rene Clair stole from OTHER people, like Fritz Lang's Metropolis or even the socialist Russian films of the 30's...
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More historical than entertaining
TallPineTree7 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I wanted to like this movie more, especially knowing the movie's history and theme, but in the end I was often bored and frustrated. When compared to Chaplin's "Modern Times", even though it was made after this movie and apparently heavily influenced by this movie, I would say "Modern Times" is a better movie.

I was bored in part because the rhythm of many 1930s movies have a slower pace. Scenes go on long to ensure the 1930s audiences gets the point, but modern audiences are quick to catch on. Even allowing for, and expecting, a slower pace I was annoyed at times by the movie's pace.

I was frustrated with the lead character. He didn't stand out in a good way. While he was suppose to be a simple everyday guy the audience is to identify with, he seemed dumb, dim witted, and oblivious when it came to the woman he was infatuated with. I realize it was a movie style back then, but it grates if the actor doesn't have the charisma to pull this act off. It also doesn't help when this movie doesn't have a character say the few words that would clear up the confusion.

I liked the sets - they were typical 1930s art deco. Big rooms, tall doors, and clean lines. Even though it was obvious and heavy handed, I was fine with the theme that industrial work is like prison labor, while the guards and professors proclaimed that work means liberty.

This is shown by the following scene: Factory guards discover one of the escaped convicts lying in the grass outside the factory enjoying the day, and one guard says: "Not at work?! Don't you know that ...". Then the scene cuts to a classroom where a bearded professor tells his class: "Work is mandatory. Because work means liberty." The young children at their desks and writing in their notebooks then sing what the professor just told them.
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René Clair was first!
phoeniks-121 August 2005
An exquisitely executed comedy about a simple man who suddenly wins a big amount of money in a lottery and the consequences for his modest way of living. A real treat of a movie, very funny and also in many ways quite profound. Maybe the first musical in the history of movies, the film is quite often being compared to Chaplins "Modern times" and apparently there was a feud between Clair and Chaplin because of the similarity in storyline. However, Clairs film is in fact very different and the two movies are both great on their respective terms. And both men should be equally praised for their depiction of the industrial developments impact on the individual human being.
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Six of one...
poe42610 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The contention that Charlie Chaplin ripped off Rene Clair's A NOUS LA LIBERTE may have merit (if not, we're talking about one of the greatest coincidences in the history of cinema)- but... When one considers the fact that Clair openly acknowledged Chaplin's influence on his own cinestyle, the point can almost be considered moot. (Certainly there are entire sequences- many of them silent- throughout A NOUS LA LIBERTE that echo Chaplin's style. Shockingly so.) At any rate, both Clair's film and Chaplin's "rip-off," MODERN TIMES, owe a debt to Fritz Lang's brilliant epic, METROPOLIS. (Osamu Tezuka, who would go on to be acknowledged as one of the seminal creators of contemporary manga and anime, would do his own manga version of METROPOLIS years later.) Regardless, Clair was a great filmmaker in his own right. UNDER THE ROOFS OF Paris, which literally begins and ends on the same note, is another Clair film worthy of note: the unprecedented use of sound alone makes this one a must-see for students of film. When it comes to the controversy of A NOUS LA LIBERTE versus MODERN TIMES, it's simply a case of six of one, half dozen of the other. They're both great films, by two of the greatest filmmakers to ever make films.
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Very, very good for 1931
MartinHafer5 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In 1931, many of the films made in France were still silents and the industry was several years behind Hollywood. In this context, it's incredible that such a creative and unusual film was released. While it is far from perfect, it's got a lot going for it and is a nice bit of social commentary.

The film begins with two prisoners trying to escape from their dull and overly regimented existence in prison. One actually does escape--the other is stuck behind but eventually escapes as well. The first guy goes from escaped prisoner to owner of a huge company producing record players--a real self--made millionaire. The problem is, his factory is run almost exactly like the assembly line from prison shown at the beginning of the film. When the second guy escapes, he is hired by this company and adapts very poorly to this mechanized regimen. There's MUCH more to it than this, but since other reviewers have discussed the film at length, I'll stop in explaining the plot.

Interestingly enough, a very similar film came out a few years later from Charlie Chaplin (MODERN TIMES) and the parallels are definitely there. However, director Clair didn't feel offended by this, but the production company instituted a lawsuit against Chaplin. The problem is that imitation IS legal--heck, you can even use the exact same title as another film if you'd really like. PLUS, I noticed that Clair actually borrowed very heavily from Chaplin!! The sympathetic second prisoner is so much like Chaplin's Little Tramp and the parallels here are also quite obvious! The way he walks, the double-takes, the klutziness, the sweetness and his inability in the end to get the girl--all very Chaplin-like--and apparently inspired by THE CIRCUS and several other Chaplin films.

I think this controversy is a lousy thing because it obscures the fact that BOTH are excellent films--though I'd definitely give the nod to MODERN TIMES. While derivative, he was able to do so much more with the material--with amazing sight gags that were missing from Clair's film--which was not nearly as funny.

By the way, had this film been made just a few years later, it would have gotten a much lower score. But, compared to the films being made in 1931, it is quite the movie.
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Fails on Many Levels
borisreviews26 June 2013
In René Clair's "A Nous la Liberté," Henri Marchand and Raymond Cordy are woefully miscast as two ex-convicts. I had high hopes for this picture, but ultimately the humor fails to produce laughs and the satire is misguided and disconnected from the truth.

The tone of the movie is sharply uneven and that's likely due to the fact that the movie had no shooting script and the actors were forced to improvise. This ultimately leads to the fragile and disjointed structure. I have no idea why René Clair trusted these actors to build the foundation for his movie - they simply do not have the screen presence or charisma to carry a film. On that basis alone, the movie is not effective and thus I cannot recommend it.

With that said, the score provided by Georges Auric is one of the positive aspects of this movie, as it attempts to match the movements of the assembly line. It almost makes up for the lack of chemistry between Marchand and Cordy.

René Clair shows glimpses of promise and with better actors he might have pulled this off, but his lack of vision is accentuated by the lack of truth in the messages he attempts to portray.
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onepotato223 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's taken me a while to get to this.

In appraising an old movie, there is entertainment and there are the ideas preserved in it. This movie may entertain some but more than likely a modern viewer will find the entertainment aspect lacking, and the movie a bit slow-moving; much like Metropolis, Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Silent movies just proceed at a different pace which I find to be on the irksome side. You'll be predicting the movies plot points before they arrive. Its reputation as a comedy bewilders me, or at least its reception as one (in the modern era) does.

It's value as a product to move ideas is intact. The socialism guiding every frame makes its points clearly and explicitly. Really... you're not going to miss the point. And the movie adopts various structural mirroring devices that are on the hoary side.

Time is not kind to certain projects. I found myself begging for the long middle portion to speed up or be over with quickly. I felt this was a very average quasi-silent movie that is in our hands today because the production design was a little more novel than most. We just love superficialities like that here in the modern world. (See Blade Runner and it's 387 special editions). I say quasi-silent because the sound appears in concentrated, intermittent segments.
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Such a great early satirical comedy/musical!
Boba_Fett113816 November 2007
What a great pleasant treat this movie was! It was an absolute delicious and fun movie to watch.

This movie is a well known left-wing satirical comedy, with most excellent timing- and constructed comical sequences and slapstick moments. It also makes its point well; commenting on the coming of the industrial technology and how the common worker becomes the victim of this and on capitalism. René Clair's view on those things becomes all too clear when watching this movie but it's done in such a way that it doesn't distract from the movie or takes anything away of the movie its entertainment value.

It's one of the very first real musicals. The songs and sequences that go by it are very fun, which make it pleasant to both look at and listen to.

On top of that the movie has a good, well constructed story. It makes this movie so much more than just a fun simplistic comedy of which hundreds got made of in the '30's. No, this movie is far from a simplistic made one. It features many different genre elements and layers. It's a clever movie that hits its mark in an effective- but above all most fun way.

The characters are all great and fun to watch. They are well set up and portrayed in the movie. All of them are fun in a different and unique way.

The movie had some great and impressive art directing (also nominated for an Oscar) and some great innovative camera-work as well. It's a great looking movie that really pleases the eye. Also the good nimble editing makes the sequences within in the movie work out all just great.

Absolutely a great and fun movie to watch, over and over again, without loosing any of its power. It makes this movie a true timeless classic!.


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"For us, freedom"
luigicavaliere25 February 2019
Two prisoners agree with the wink to escape from the prison. During the escape, one is stopped and the other manages to escape, becoming an affirmed businessman. When his friend goes out of prison, he finds him in the industry and, winking, they happily resume their friendship. The entrepreneur is recognized and threatened by other former prison mates, who want their share. The businessman tries to cancel a trial, but they have more than one, so he closes them in a room in his house. By mistake the friend opens the door and the bandits come out warning the police. After a general pantomime set in the industry, the two friends run away without anything embraced but happy with the value of friendship and freedom, which is at the center of the song: "For us, freedom".
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Human Life?
sb-47-6087378 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
While watching a masterpiece, by a master craftsman, I try to understand what he wanted to convey. The story is covered in various other reviews, some hailed it masterpiece, some denigrated it. I go with the former, but there is only one important piece of the puzzle not spelt out. Why did the two land up in gaol ? I assume due to tramping / begging (since in the end they did say the earth is round - which I mean they meant to tell that they are where they started from). In between what happened is all a part of human life - in modern age - and I don't mean modern age as they thought in 1931, but it is as much or more, applicable today. You are born free, happy, as children, without any thought of tomorrow, living in the present. That is till you are caught and put in jail (school, if you like it, and the director too meant it, in a small clip). Whether on completion of term (Emile), or even before like Bill Gates (Lois), you escape the grinding, aiming to be free. But are you ? You struggle a bit and then fall back into another jail and are back into your mechanical life again. You might or might not realise it, but that's how it becomes. Only difference is that in this mechanical life, you grow, go up the ladder of social life, get love (may be even lose it). You think that your now starched collar gives you the happiness, probably till you see another one who has just learnt to enjoy (Emile, freshly discharged) and join him in the childish frame. The mechanical life goes on, with its ups and downs - till it is the time. The others now put on the demands on whatever you have gained, and thought your own, and then you give it all (have to) and along with it, the mechanical life, and then you are back to the first stage (old and retired in physical sense), the same carefree life. The assembly line - in the middle shows the two stages, much too well. When you are in school, you complete the job (the wooden toys) by yourself, each one his own. But in the next stage, you have to work with others, each people adding up or complementing the other. Some in the good books of the Boss, or by own efforts move up, but are they happy/ free / out of mechanical life ?
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treywillwest1 May 2018
It was striking watching this film shortly after having attended a very fine museum exhibit on American Precisionist painting, a style in vogue at the time this film was made. As in Precisionism, the imagery here is concerned with the industrialization of society. Every facet of social life, not just the work-place, but the school and the prison-system seems to director Rene Clair to have been turned into a factory. The film features some extremely clever editing making the connection between industrial production and the production of passive subjects of capitalism clear. The difference between Clair and the Precisionists is that most of the latter saw in industrialization a utopian promise. What few who didn't, such as George Ault , understood industrialization in apocalyptic terms. In either case, it represented for the Precisionists an absolute transformation of life from which there was no turning back. For the filmmaker's part, Clair clearly understood modernity in sinister terms, industrialization bringing about the mechanization of the subject, but his humanism made it impossible for him to see the modernist challenge to humanity as insurmountable. For Clair, human dignity could be salvaged just by forsaking the materialist temptations of capitalism for the simple pleasures of life. Exploiter and exploited could return to a loving, communal relationship by embracing poverty and freedom. Art historians have proposed that the utopianism of Precisionist art was abolished by the horrific realizations of WWII. That would, it seems to me, to apply equally to the humanist utopia of Clair's cinema.
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