on 14 August 2012
Mr Freedom (William Klein, 1969, 95')
Mr Freedom is a 1969 film by American expatriate photographer and filmmaker William Klein. In addition to starring popular French actrice Delphine Seyrig, this anti-imperialist satirical farce features cameos by well-known actors Donald Pleasence and Philippe Noiret, as well as of musician Serge Gainsbourg. Sami Frey -- Christ-Jean-Luc Bideau -- Un combatant (as J L Bideau)-Daniel Cohn-Bendit -- himself (uncredited)-Yves Montand -- Capt Formidable (uncredited) and Simone Signoret -- Cameo appearance (uncredited).
Under the command of Dr Freedom (Pleasence), crass superhero Mr Freedom (John Abbey) - a pro-American Right superhero who fights for God and country by beating, robbing, raping, and killing anyone who looks like they might disagree with him - goes to France to stave off the French Anti-Freedom (FAF) organization. He joins forces with femme fatale Marie-Madeleine (Seyrig). The Freedom mission is complicated by the machinations of communist foes --Stalinist Moujik Man (Noiret) and ferocious Maoist Red China Man (portrayed as a giant inflatable dragon). France, refusing to see the FAF as a threat, rebuffs Freedom, who then destroys himself because of the "unappreciative" nation.
Like his previous film, Who are you, Polly Magoo? (1966), and reminiscent of the feel of much of Zazie dans le Métro (Louis Malle, 1960), in which Klein is credited as artistic consultant, Mr Freedom features absurd characters, comical costuming, and exaggeration. The title character's uniform is an odd assemblage of discarded football gear, face paint, and hockey gloves. The United States Embassy is a department store run by skipping models in spandex, proffering right-wing mercenaries and "Freedom Kits" of high-tech weaponry. Freedom training sessions are Dantian visions of rape and sadism. Every scene aims for the absurd, reaching both for comic effect and political statement.
Filmed at the height of the Vietnam War and concurrently with the radical political upheaval of 1968 France, Mr Freedom is a political farce, clearly sympathizing with national liberation and left wing movements. The title character, a stand-in for US political and economic might, is a crude, cruel buffoon in the service of corporations. His rhetoric of freedom stands in cold relief to his actions, which are anything but democratic. Klein had also participated in Loin du Vietnam (1967), an anti-war film of seven sketches directed by Jean-Luc Godard, (Klein,) Claude Lelouch, Joris Ivens, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais and Agnès Varda.
The film makes numerous left wing statements on the Cold War, and more specifically, the Vietnam War, yet it was widely taken to be about the student uprising of May 1968 in France. Klein denied this, claiming that it was more a film about America: Klein's assertion is supported by the chronology of the film's production: In May 1968 shooting was nearly wrapped up, although documentary images of marches and clashes of May were included in the final production. Film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum even wrote that Klein's 1968 satire was "conceivably the most anti-American movie ever made."
Nevertheless, its implicit critique of Charles de Gaulle and sympathy with the radical students tied the release of Mr Freedom up with French censors. Fearing it may never be seen otherwise, Klein showed the film at the 1968 Avignon Festival. Marxist-Leninist groups criticized the political caricatures of Red China Man and other characters. Never receiving the widespread attention of other films released immediately post-1968, Mr Freedom (wrongly) remains an obscure film.
133 - Mr Freedom (William Klein, 1969, 95') - 14/8/2012