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The Phantom of Liberty, May 6

A Tribute to Jean-Claude Carrière

Saturday, May 6, 2006
8:30 p.m. The Phantom of Liberty
Luis Buñuel (France, 1974)

(Le fantôme de la liberté). "I see liberty as a ghost that we try to grasp," Buñuel said in an interview. "We embrace a misty shape that leaves us with only a wisp of vapor in our hands." The same could be said of narrative in this slippery chain of vignettes, linked by coincidence and loosely coiled around themes expressed in ambiguous epigrams: a Spaniard declaring "Down with liberty!" in the face of Napoleon's troops; bourgeois Jean-Claude Brialy complaining "I'm sick of symmetry" as he places a spider specimen on his elegant mantelpiece. Blasphemies and waking dreams play out in the same cool blue-green atmosphere of detachment, and intentionally puerile gags frame unexpectedly haunting episodes, such as the search for a missing child who's been there all along. Voluntary enslavement, voluntary blindness: the dumb gaze of a captive ostrich at a massacre could sum it all up, but doesn't.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière. Photographed by Edmond Richard. With Jean-Claude Brialy, Monica Vitti, Michel Piccoli, Julien Bertheau. (104 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Rialto Pictures)