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Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics, 1928–1960

Friday, October 19, 2012
7:00 p.m. À nous la liberté
René Clair (France, 1931)

Like Chaplin’s Modern Times, which it influenced (just as Clair’s characters were influenced by Chaplin’s before them), À nous la liberté is an attack on automation that does not hesitate to compare factory life with prison life in futuristic sets designed by Lazare Meerson. The story depicts the adventures of two ex-convicts, Louis (Raymond Cordy), now the owner of a large phonograph company, and Emile (Henri Marchand), a confirmed, freedom-loving vagabond. Clair combines fantasy with irony, whimsy with wistful pessimism, musical comedy with fine-tuned slapstick to create a satire of the highest order. À nous la liberté marks the culmination of Clair’s experiments in sound in two previous films, Under the Roofs of Paris and Le million.

• Written by Clair. Photographed by Georges Périnal. With Raymond Cordy, Henri Marchand, Rolla France. (82 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Institut Français, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)