A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Prefect's sister Adrianna Asti Mr. Faucaulte Jean-Claude Brialy Dr. Legendre Aldolfo Celi Second prefect Michel Piccoli Mrs. Faucaulte Monica Vitti
Things first began to go wrong, Luis Buñuel teases us, in Spain in 1808, when Napoleon's troops arrived to liberate Toledo. In the opening scenes of Buñuel's savage comedy, "The Phantom of Liberty," the soldiers execute those who would not be liberated. "Down with freedom!" cries one of the doomed. It is the cry of a defeated social order. The French and American revolutions have unleashed freedom on a defenseless world, and forevermore the population will be unable to rely on the authoritarian reassurance of church and state.
After a scene of typically Buñuelian surrealism -- a drunken soldier tried to embrace a marble woman, and is banged on the head by the sculpture's husband -- the film's action moves to contemporary France and stays there. But it doesn't stay in any one place very long. The movie's a fluid, dizzying juggling act of many stories and cheerfully bizarre coincidences.
Buñuel sweeps us into each new vignette so quickly there's no time to hang around while the last one is tidied up. We meet characters, they confront a crisis involving insanity, illegality, doom, fetishism, institutional stupidity or all of the above, and then, just as the cause of the crisis is revealed as a paradox, the characters cross paths with a new set of characters and we're off on their heels. Buñuel's camera often enters a scene with one set of characters and leaves with another, a device that was used again in "Slacker" (1991).