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This surrealist film consists of a series of only vaguely related episodes, most famously the dinner party scene in which people sit on lavatories round a dinner table, occasionally retiring to a small room to eat.Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
Buñuel continues to impress with this surrealistic, violent comedy
The master of surrealistic cinema, Luis Buñuel, changed his approach to the bourgeoisie after "Tristana", and his last three films are all comic and prevail through a mixture of pure surrealism, extreme irony and the one consistent theme of Buñuel's auteurship- hatred of the ruling classes.
"Le Fantôme de la Liberté" is perhaps Buñuel's least accessible work since his first two films, "Un Chien Andalou" and "L' Age d' Or". It is a thematic continuation of "Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie", where the seven protagonists just couldn't finish, or even start, a meal. This is a strong metaphor for Buñuel's view that the bourgeoisie is a dying class, and that not even a violent revolution is needed to remove the bourgeoisie from power and wealth. They are perfectly capable of doing so themselves, through their indulgence in pathetic etiquette and decaying sense of morality. "Le Fantôme" is not funnier than "Le Charme", but it is harder to understand, and this is exactly what Buñuel and Carrière wanted after the success of "Le Charme" at the previous Academy Awards.
In "Le Fantôme", not even the characters are consistent throughout the film. This film is like a relay, where one member of the ruling class passes the stick to the next, and never comes back to the vision of the audience. They just leave, like Buñuel wanted them to, perhaps, but in this film is an important factor because it confirms Buñuel's non-human view of the people of this class. His was a collective hatred, and this film reflects his collective view of the bourgeoisie. The film contains absurd, surreal incidents, like priests playing cards while smoking and drinking, parents reacting to postcards of famous buildings given their daughter by a stranger as they were obscene and a writer killing tens of people from his sniping-position at the roof of a building. The writer is found not guilty, and the continuing mix-up of characters, two actors competing for one role makes for a very confusing narrative. Or maybe the "story" is just a mockery of traditional storytelling in film. Resnais and Robbe-Grillet made "Last Year in Marienbad" just to prove that telling stories is a bourgeois thing and not necessary for modernist or revolutionary cinema.
This film is actually based on a painting by Francisco José de Goya called "El Tres de Mayo" (The three in Mayo), and "Le Fantôme" starts with a short episode of how Buñuel depicts the incidents during the Napoleon Wars. But it's the theme of Goya's painting that Buñuel is concerned with, and this film is more than a mockery of the bourgeoisie, it is also an attack on communist doctrine which all over the world only seems to take from the people what is was supposed to give to the people: Freedom, and also an attack on leftist defeatism. The glorification of the defeat is perhaps the modern Left's biggest problem, which only leads to a move away from power. "Down with freedom!", Buñuel's revolutionaries shout- and the firing squads start firing at the dying revolutionaries.
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