20/05/2010 14:32

Pedja’s Film Collection: The Phantom of Liberty

Surrealistic master-piece “The Phantom of Liberty” is one of Buñuel’s films which resemble more a sequence of scenes from one’s dream than actual classic film structure.. Narrative fragments are seemingly incoherent, each one leaving a respective impression on a viewer. The stories are succeeding one another: an unpleasant man from the playground gives photographs to a child – what’s on those photographs is completely unexpected. A nurse spends a night in a motel where she meets some peculiar monks. A sniper is unexpectedly glorified as a hero after his shooting spree at passers-by from the top of a new glistening skyscraper. Parents in tears seek help from the police in search of their missing girl although she’s besides them the whole time. In a legendary scene, a group of formally dressed people is seated on toilet bowls around a dining table. With this bizarre and ingenious work of art Buñuel attacks the distorted social perception of religion and freedom, playing with subjects of politics, religion and sex.

The father of cinematic Surrealism, Luis Buñuel, was born in Calanda, Teruel, in Spanish region of Aragon. While studying at University of Madrid he befriended Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca. In 1925 he moves to Paris where he did a variety of film-related odd jobs, including working as an assistant to directors Jean Epstein and Mario Nalpas. In 1929, together with Salvador Dalí he wrote a script and then directed a short, 16-minute film "An Andalusian Dog" (Un chien andalou). It made a deep impression on the Surrealist Group, who welcomed Buñuel into their ranks. Buñuel’s next film “Age of Gold” (L'Âge d'Or) continued in the same direction. The film was a slash at Catholicism and, notably, created even bigger scandal than “An Andalusian Dog”.

Right wing press hugely criticized the film and consequently police banned its screenings. The ban lasted for 50 years. After “Age of Gold” Buñuel returns to Spain where, in 1933, he shoots “Land Without Bread” (Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan) a documentary on life of peasants. In late 1940s Buñuel moves to Mexico and shoots "The Young and the Damned" (Los Olividados) for which he receives the best director award at Cannes Film Festival in 1950. In 1961 General Franco invites Buñuel back to Spain. In response, Buñuel shoots “Viridiana”, which was promptly banned in Spain for blasphemy and in awarded Palme d'Or in Cannes. With it starts director’s most prolific period; during 60s and 70s, he created some of his greatest masterpieces. After he stopped making films, Buñuel wrote a memorable (if factually dubious) autobiography, in which he said he'd be happy to burn all the prints of all his films - a classic Surrealist gesture if ever there was one.