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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
15 JUNE 2014

The peculiar case of the Icelandic Phallological Museum

"Paris has the Louvre. London has the Tate Modern, and New York the Metropolitan Museum. But Husavik, Iceland–a diminutive village on the fringe of the Arctic Circle–boasts the world's only museum devoted exclusively to painstakingly preserved male genitalia. Founded and curated by Sigurður 'Siggi' Hjartarson, the Icelandic Phallological Museum houses four decades worth of mammalian members, from a petite field mouse to the colossal sperm whale, and every 'thing' in between. But, lamentably, Siggi's collection lacks the holy grail of phallic phantasmagoria: a human specimen. Siggi's world changes dramatically when he receives generous offers from an elderly Icelandic Casanova and an eccentric American. However, as the competition for eternal penile preservation heats up between the two men, Siggi soon discovers that this process is more complicated than it initially appeared. In their debut feature film, Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math follow Siggi on his dogged, often emotional quest to complete his exhibition in a peculiar, yet startlingly relatable, story of self–fulfillment and the value of personal legacies (both big and small)."

Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math (2012). "The Final Member" [documentary film, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2318701/]

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TAGS

2012anatomyarctic circle • Ari Karlsson • Asbjorn Bjorgvinsson • bodycabinet of curiosities • Casanova • collections • collector • documentary film • documentary subject • Douglas Mason • Drafthouse Films • eccentric • eccentric collection • Fantastic Fest • genitalia • genitals • Hannes Blondal • Helgi Heoinsson • human donor • human specimen • Husavik • Iceland • Icelandic Phallological Museum • intriguing objects • Jonah Bekhor • male genitalia • mammalian penis • mammals • Marci Bowers • Mitchell Morris • museumNorth American • organ donor • Pall Arason • Paula-Jo Husack • penis • penis museum • penis size • personal collections • personal legacies • Petur Halldoresson • phallic • phallic phantasmagoria • Reynir Hjartarson • Sigurour Hjartarson • Sin Hastings • specimentaboo subjects • taxidermist • Terry Gunnel • The Final Member (2012) • Tom Mitchell • Zach Math

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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