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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
21 JULY 2013

Alas Smith and Jones: famous parody of cliched character archetypes

Fig.1 "Nazi Generals" sketch from Series 5 Episode 5 of Alas Smith & Jones [http://epguides.com/AlasSmithandJones/].

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1980s1989 • Alas Smith and Jones • Andy Hamilton • archetypal charactersBBCBritish comedycharacter archetypecharacter oversimplification • Chris Langham • cliche • Clive Anderson • Colin Bostock-Smith • comedycomedy series • Griff Rhys Jones • hackneyedhumour • Mel Smith • military leaderNazi • Not the Nine OClock News • parodysketch comedystereotypes • Talkback Productions • television series • trite

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
20 NOVEMBER 2012

Dumb Ways to Die ad becomes surprise hit

"'Set fire to your hair, poke a stick at a grizzly bear ... Dumb ways to die ... dumb ways to die–ie–ie.' If the chorus isn't stuck in your head, it will be soon. Melbourne Metro Trains' darkly cute – and irksomely catchy – new ad for transport safety has gone viral, notching up a whopping 4.2 million YouTube views in less than a week. And nobody is more stunned by its success than the man behind the music, Sydneysider Ollie McGill. The Cat Empire keyboards player was commissioned to write the score to accompany lyrics to the McCann Group's new ad and has watched Facebook likes, Twitter shares and YouTube hits skyrocket as word of the animated video has spread like wildfire. ... In the ad, cartoon characters meet their ends in a number of colourful, sardonic ways, including a couple of nasty mishaps on train tracks, while the sweet chorus, 'dumb ways to die ... ' is instant earworm material."

(Daisy Dumas, 19 November 2012, Fairfax New Zealand Ltd.)

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20122D animationadadvertisementanimated videoanimationAustraliabearblack humourcartooncartoon characters • catchy • character animationcomedydark comedy • darkly cute • deathdie • dumb • dumb ways to die • earworm • episodic structuregone viral • Horrible Histories • humouriTunesMcCann Groupmeet their endsMelbourne • Melbourne Metro Trains • mistakes to avoidmusic videonasty mishaps • Ollie McGill • parablepublic service announcementsafety • sardonic • songwriter • stupid deaths • The Cat Empire • traintrain station • train tracks • transport safety • Wahroonga

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
05 FEBRUARY 2012

Pink Flamingos: a provocative celebration of otherness

"'Pink Flamingos was an antihippie movie made for hippies who would be punks in two years. It's a pothead movie. I wrote it on pot.' – John Waters"

(Jeff Jackson, DreamlandNews)

Fig.1 John Waters (1972). trailer for "Pink Flamingos".

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1970s1972androgynyart filmBaltimore Marylandblack humour • camping it up • celluloid moment • comedy • Cookie Mueller • cult filmcult movie • Danny Mills • David Lochary • defecate • deviancedisgust • disgusting • Divine (actor) • dog • Edith Massey • egg • excrement • faeces • female impersonator • film • flamboyance • flamingo • gaygrotesque • hippie • hippie exploitation • independent cinemaindie cinemainfamous • John Waters • lip synclowbrow • Mary Vivian Pearce • midnight movie • Mink Stole (actor) • mobile home • notorietyotherness • over-acting • over-the-toppink • Pink Flamingos (film) • poodleprovocativepseudonympunkpunk rock ethosqueer cinemashockshocking • Steve Yeager • subculture • swallow • tabootransgressiontrashunderground • underground star • USAviolence

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
28 NOVEMBER 2011

Buster Keaton: one of the greatest comic actors of all time

"Buster Keaton is considered one of the greatest comic actors of all time. His influence on physical comedy is rivaled only by Charlie Chaplin. Like many of the great actors of the silent era, Keaton's work was cast into near obscurity for many years. Only toward the end of his life was there a renewed interest in his films. An acrobatically skillful and psychologically insightful actor, Keaton made dozens of short films and fourteen major silent features, attesting to one of the most talented and innovative artists of his time. ...

Often at odds with the physical world, his ability to naively adapt brought a melancholy sweetness to the films. The subtlety of the work, however, left Keaton behind the more popular Chaplin and Lloyd. By the 1930s, the studio felt it was in their best interest to take control of his films. No longer writing or directing, Keaton continued to work at a grueling pace. Not understanding the complexity of his genius, they wrote for him simple characters that only took advantage of the most basic of his skills. For Keaton, as for many of the silent movie stars, the final straw was the advent of the talkies."

(American Masters and The Public Broadcasting Corporation)

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actor • actor-director • American MastersBuster KeatonCharlie Chaplincomedy • comic actor • daredevildeadpan expressionfilmmakerfunnyhumour • Joseph Frank Keaton • moviespathosPBSperformancephysical comedysilent filmsilent moviesslapstickstoicsubtlety • The Cameraman (film) • The General (film) • The Navigator (film)

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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