Bourgeois convention is demolished in Luis Bu±uel's surrealist gem The Phantom of Liberty. Featuring an elegant soir#e with guests seated at toilet bowls, poker-playing monks using religious medals as chips, and police off... more »icers looking for a missing girl who is right under their noses, this perverse, playfully absurd comedy of nonsequiturs deftly compiles many of the themes that preoccupied Bu±uel throughout his career-from the hypocrisy of conventional morality to the arbitrariness of social arrangements.« less
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 08/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Another great work by Luis Bunuel, The Phantom of Liberty has more outright humor in it than probably any of his other films. When the private and public functions of eating and evacuating are reversed, and monks congregate in a room to watch a man get spanked by a dominatrix, and a soldier passionately kisses a statue, and a haughty professor's butt gets tagged with a full-of-pins paper cutout by some immature cadets, you know you're having fun.Here it really seems as though Bunuel was essentially making fun of his own intense desire to engage in biting satire, because the feeling is much more of letting loose with some laugh-out-loud antics rather than the need to mercilessly slash and burn social conventions. This is a much lighter film than one would typically expect from Bunuel, and yet that is not at all related to its significance. It's a sharp piece of cinema, full of irreverence that, as many have already indicated, is closer to Monty Python than anything else.Bunuel's sense of fun here does not require a plot, just as many of his other films don't. But in this film the lack of formal narrative actually seems to work better than in several of his other works; we keep waiting for the next scene to see if it will top what we've just seen--regardless whether there's logic in the seguing or not (there almost always isn't).A lot of fun and very highly recommended."
Exhilarating satirical surrealist show from Luis Buñuel
Kenji Fujishima | East Brunswick, NJ USA | 10/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm told by fellow film enthusiasts that Buñuel's later films do not show this Spanish master at his best, that his earliest films---his famous collaborations with Salvador Dalí, for instance---show an edgier, more fascinating Buñuel. Whatever. I saw his 1974 film THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY for the first time recently, and I immediately fell in love with it. There are those who swear by his more popular 1972 Oscar-winner THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE, but somehow I think THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY is even more entertaining than DISCREET CHARM.
There is no plot to speak of in PHANTOM: this film is basically a collection of surrealist sketches that finds Buñuel playing with all kinds of different ideas and different images. Monks pray for a woman's sick father, and then play poker with the woman and smoke. A group of people sit around a dinner table on toilets, and go to the bathroom to eat in private. Two parents desperately try to find their missing daughter---even though she's right there in class when they call her name. In the universe Buñuel concocts in THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY, anything goes.
The amazing thing about this movie is that, instead of seeming like an irrational series of surrealistic sketches, THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY has a broad theme to support its free-form structure: it's Buñuel's comic vision of freedom run amuck. Sure, the idea of liberty is appealing to everyone...but, as Buñuel seems to be suggesting, even freedom has its limits. The opening scene of the movie is set in Toledo, Spain in 1808, as Napoleon's troops attempt to liberate the Spanish and are greeted with cries of "Down with liberty!" There can be times when we want the assurance of authority, rather than the freedom to act in whatever way we please.
Buñuel doesn't take a stand one way or the other, really; he's just an artist who is intrigued by the idea, and his interest fuels the free-form structure of the film, and its content. Almost anything and everything he can think of---within the bounds, I suppose, of the same themes he covered throughout his long and illustrious film career---is thrown into this movie, and while some viewers may perhaps prefer the comfort of a movie with some structure, I found its elegant chaos exhilarating.
Only a master filmmaker who had absolute confidence in what he was doing would dare make a movie like this. I think Buñuel pulls it off triumphantly here; somehow, he makes the movie seem almost logical, the way it progresses. THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY is a sheer delight. Highly recommended."
"On a flimsy ground of reality, imagination spins out and wa
Galina | Virginia, USA | 03/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
This excellent collection of satirical vignettes is my kind of movie - crazy, dark and comical, it goes any direction it wants and does not follow any rules. When we try to grasp for the meaning, it is like a ghost, a phantom that "leaves us with a wisp of vapor in our hands" and disappears - very much like the liberty, the freedom the humans try to find but instead could only see its phantom disappearing. The film follows many characters on its way shifting effortlessly and playfully from the central ones to the minor ones making minor ones the central and going back and forth from one time period to another. It opens in Toledo during the Napoleonic occupation then jumps to the modern day Paris. It could've gone anywhere and introduced me to any character - it still would've been enormously interesting because it was made by the master who had never lost his curiosity, his inquisitive mind, his memory that consisted of the strange and amazing images, his sense of humor, his childhood dreams, his fantasies, dark and shining and who was able to throw them all on the screen like no one ever was able or will be able to do. To understand Bunuel completely would be as impossible as to catch the Phantom of Liberty - he will be always one of the best and unsolved mysteries in the Art of Cinema.
Spectre of Marx
blockhed | UK | 01/30/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Harpo, Chico and Groucho, that is, more than Karl. Amusing and entertaining through and through, but not the pinnacle of Bunuel, which, in my eyes, is Tristana. But I've only seen 6 or 7 of his films. The extra feature, The Celebration of Chance, is invaluable. Bunuel's works are greatly helped by the commentaries of Jean-Claude Carriere. Carriere remarks that the title is an allusion to Marx. The truth is that the pursuit of liberty (or the idea that it can ever be attained) is, and has to be, illusory; and the movie medium actually accentuates the doomed nature of the search. No matter how much you twist and turn, invert the world, run counter to convention and reverse reality, the prison which fetters human perceptions can never be escaped. This is not exactly new. In fact there is a passage in one of Lewis Carroll's lesser known works, where the crowd shouts something like: Longer hours! Worse pay! Illogic has always had its adherents, and the non-sequitur has been known for centuries. Bunuel enjoyed the freedom in this film to do exactly what he wanted, and in one sense it is an expression of the fact that even with this freedom, to ignore plot, character development, cause and effect, the movie-maker is still constrained --- by something. The wish to produce a work of art, perhaps? Taken to its absurd extreme, the artist would end up in total solitude creating a work which he instantly destroys. The film has to be seen, however, and the one star has only been removed by a personal desire to be perverse. Wonderful cinematography, perfect performances, superb scenes and dialogue."
A minor Bunuel masterpiece, but still a masterpiece
Penguin Egg | London, England | 06/05/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Phantom of Liberty is made up of a series of surrealist vignettes held together by the loosest of narrative structures - Think of a Monty Python episode without the laughter-track. The opening scene has prisoners facing a firing squad, defiantly clenching their raised fists, and shouting, "Down with freedom" and "Long live chains." This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the film. In another memorable scene, guests sit down at the dining table, but instead of chairs, they sit on toilets. To talk about food at the table is the height of vulgarity. There are other scenes just as good. This film may sound arty-farty, but it works and works brilliantly, and in no small part due to Luis Bunuel, who directs with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of effect. Don't let the surrealist tag put you off. This film is fun and was meant to be so. This may not be quite up there with the rest of Bunuel's classics : Belle De Jour, Simon of the Desert, or The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, with which The Phantom of Liberty has something in common; but it is still a minor masterpiece and will delight and baffle in equal measure."