Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Phantom of Liberty

After Fellini and Herzog - see below - another visionary director, the old Surrealist Luis Bunuel and his 1974 puzzler THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY. Bunuel of course made his name in the '30s and made several films in Mexico, I like his 1954 ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE; then his 1961 VIRIDIANA was as provocative and influential as L'AVVENTURA or LA DOLCE VITA. He continued pleasing the critics and having occasional hits - famously BELLE DE JOUR in 1967, followed by TRISTANA and that big hit in 1972, THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE, which in turn was followed by THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY, and then his last film THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE.
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.

Then there is the sequence of the little girl showing her parents the photos she was given by a man in the park. The parents - Monica Vitti and Jean-Claude Brialy - are shocked and then aroused by the photos which turn out to be pictures of famous landmarks. This level of absurdity continues through the various sketches, as Bunuel makes fun of religion, bourgeoise society and the norms of society, throughout the ages with some sketches set in the past, those flagellating monks, that final odd sequence at the zoo. Some are more amusing than others, but thats surrealism for you. It must have surely influenced the MONTY PYTHON team too - they began around this time.  

The toilet sequence though is jaw-dropping as everyone sits around the table and then furtively sneak off to the small room and hurriedly eat their food. Through many episodes with some linking points since 1808 in Toledo (Spain) to the present days in France, Bunuel presents a delicious surrealistic satire to the morals and hypocrisy of society, family values and the church, as each segment is open to whatever interpretation the audience want to put on it. Below: Bunuel with Brialy and Vitti.

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