The Phantom of Liberty

“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

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