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Which clippings match 'Cultural Past' keyword pg.1 of 1
11 JULY 2014

The Phantom of Liberty: humorous critique of bourgeois conventions

"Luis Buñuel's The Phantom of Liberty was quickly dismissed upon its release in 1974. Not only did it have to contend with the lingering success of 1972's similarly themed but significantly less abstract The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, but it was quickly followed by the dreamlike, bi–polar romantic entanglement of the director's last film, That Obscure Object of Desire. Like Discreet Charm, the plot–free Phantom of Liberty is a patchwork of comedic sketches and sight gags through which Buñuel ravages a complacent European culture and the various sexual hang–ups and historical and cultural disconnects of its inhabitants. This heady, almost off–putting masterwork isn't particularly easy to decipher (maybe we aren't meant to), which is why it's best to approach it as a literal comedy of manners.

Films structured around daisy chains of dysfunction are a dime a dozen; most, though, are as tiresomely long–winded as they are content with their own strained circularity. This isn't the case with Phantom of Liberty, which begins with a shot of Goya's 1808 masterpiece 'The Third of May.' The painting depicts Napoleon's army executing a group of faceless Spaniards, and via a reenactment of this struggle, Buñuel depicts how one of Napoleon's captains tries to defile the monument of Doña Elvira only to be smacked on the head by the moving arm of the statue of the woman's husband. (He later intends to sleep with the woman's corpse, and when he opens her coffin, he's amazed by how her beauty has been preserved.) It's the first of many sight gags in the film, each and every one as startling as they are perversely funny. All these moments are possessed by a sense of shocked wonderment and discovery, and they all more or less evoke fragile pasts and characters trying to reconcile their historical detachments."

(Ed Gonzalez, 13 September 2003, Slant Magazine)

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TAGS

1974absurd situationsabsurdist humourabsurdity • Adolfo Celi • Adriana Asti • Anne-Marie Deschott • apparition • Arch de Triomphe • archaic rules • Bernard Verley • black humour • bourgeois • bourgeoise societycancer • chance encounter • cigarettes • Claude Pieplu • coffin • comedic sketches • comedycomedy of mannerscorpsecritiquecultural conventionscultural pastdaughterdining practicesdinner tabledisappearancedoctor • Dona Elvira • eatingepisodic structureetiquetteEuropean cinema • European culture • faith • Francois Maistre • girl • Goya • Helene Perdriere • hotel • housemaid • humour • impulses • internal logic • intrusion • Jean Rochefort • Jean-Claude Brialy • Julien Bertheau • Le Fantome de la Liberte (1974) • Luis Bunuel • mailman • masterwork • Michael Lonsdale • Michel Piccoli • Milena Vukotic • Monica Vitti • Montparnasse • morality • nanny • narrative preconceptions • obscene • ostrich • parodypatchwork • Paul Frankeur • phallicphallic symbol • Philippe Brigaud • Pierre Maguelon • policepolite societypostcard • postman • psychoanalysisritual • rooster • rulesschool • schoolchildren • Serge Silberman • sexual hang-ups • sexual taboo • sight gag • sketch comedy • sniper • social behavioursocial conventionsSpanish filmsubconscioussurrealist cinemasurrealist filmmakertaboo • That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) • The Phantom of Liberty (1974) • The Third of May (1808) • toilettriptych • vanished • visual gagzoo

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
27 APRIL 2013

How and when Muslim societies will move away from seeing violence as a resolution to human conflict

"This week the minaret of one of Syria's most beautiful mosques was destroyed in the northern city of Aleppo. The Ummayad mosque established in 715 was rebuilt in 1159 after being damaged by a fire and then built again a century later after the Mongol invasion. The oldest surviving part was the minaret and both the State forces and the rebels accuse each other of its destruction. Lying in the Old City, the mosque is a Unesco world heritage site but has become part of the wider devastation of Syria's rich cultural heritage; a Crusader castle and Roman ruins in the ancient city of Palmyra have also been damaged.

However sad this physical destruction of history and art is, it should matter less to us than the recent reports that some 70,000 lives have been lost in this terrible civil war with hundreds of thousands more displaced. This is a war which is gradually ripping the country apart but about which the rest of the world doesn't seem to know what to do. Yet there is a different poignancy to the loss of a country's artistic and cultural past. It is these visual artifacts, building and ruins which speak to us of a country's history, its collective memory, the love and passion of the people who make a piece of land into a nation state. That so many Syrians are now killing each other and destroying ruins and religious sites poses the disturbing question, what exactly is still held sacred in so many part of the Muslim world?

A couple of weeks ago I returned from a short break to Istanbul. The area surrounding the majestic Hagia Sophia and the Blue mosque is also a Unesco world heritage site, tourists wander freely, the buildings stand sublime, the contested past of the place breathing its religious spirit into a refashioned, modern and vibrant city. But I wonder whether the preservation of history is only meaningful in countries where there is the preservation of peace, where people can enjoy the ordinariness of life, where there is order and purpose and we have the luxury of self reflection.

Earlier this week the former Met commissioner sir Ian Blair said societies choose what kind of violence they will tolerate. Looking across to so many part of the Islamic world where there is civil war, state violence and individual acts of terror, I wonder how and when Muslim societies will move away from seeing violence as a resolution to human conflict. When God is great is uttered as people and buildings are blown up what kind of God have so many created in their hearts and minds? The destruction of the minaret is not just a physical destruction but a tragic metaphor for a nation's soul."

(Mona Siddiqui, 26 April 2013, BBC Radio 4: Thought for the Day)

Fig.1 At left, the damaged Umayyad mosque in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, on Wednesday 24 April 2013; at right, the view of the mosque with the minaret intact on 6 March 2013. (AP) [http://www.wbur.org/npr/178906558/minaret–of–iconic–syrian–mosque–destroyed–in–fighting].

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TAGS

1159 • 715 • Aleppo • ancient city • architectural feature • artistic past • BBC Radio 4 • blown up • Blue mosque • building and ruinscivil warcollective memory • Crusader castle • Crusadescultural heritagecultural heritage sitescultural past • destroying • destructiondevastationgod • Hagia Sophia • historic preservation • history and art • human conflict • Ian Blair • individual acts of terror • Islamic mosque • Islamic world • Metropolitan Police • minaret • Minaret of the Bride • Mona Siddiqui • Mongol invasion • mosque • Muslim societies • Muslim world • order and purpose • ordinariness of life • Palmyra • physical destructionpreservation • preservation of history • preservation of peace • religious sites • Roman ruins • ruinssacred • self reflection • self-reflection • state violence • SyriaThought for the Day • tragic metaphor • Umayyad Mosque • UNESCO • UNESCO World Heritage site • violencevisual artefactswomen in cultural theorywonders of the ancient world • world heritage site • world heritage sites

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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