A Nous la Liberte

1931 French satire

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Emile and Louis are tired of wasting away in a prison cell. They long for freedom, so much that they feel the need to sing about it even. They attempt an escape, and while Emile makes it to the other side of a pair of walls, Louis is captured again. Or maybe it's the other way around. Anyway, the guy who breaks out winds up becoming a rich and successful owner of a factory that makes phonographs, a device that apparently played MP3's back in the 1930s. Eventually, Louis also, regardless of his actual intention, succeeds in breaking out of jail and meets up with his buddy when he gets a job at the factory.

It's just a guess, but I'm thinking Rene Clair wasn't totally ready to embrace the new technology that would allow the characters of his films to speak, just like his buddy Charlie Chaplin. So much of A Nous la Liberte reminds me of silent comedy, and Clair tells the story of these two guys visually a lot of the time. And visually, this movie's really impressive. I'm not sure there's anything I'd describe as fancy with the camera work or its movements, but the cinematography definitely has more of a modern feel than almost all the other comedies I've seen from the 1930s. So although we do get to hear the characters communicate, I'm not sure we really need to because the visuals do a good enough job telling the story. We definitely don't need to hear them sing. The songs aren't very good anyway, and if you call this a musical, you have to call it a half-assed one. Satirically, it seems pretty subversive, actually exploring similar ideas as Chaplin's Modern Times. Maybe that's why the studio sued Chaplin for cinematic plagiarism, but really, I don't see that much that these movies have in common. I'm a sucker for great visuals, it's one of those whimsical French dealies, and this is just the kind of comedy that hits my sweet spot. Yes, that's a reference to my taint.

A very cool Cory recommendation. I think the movie poster probably first attracted him.


cory said...

Yeah, you figured me out. I found this very charming and optimistic. I actually liked the songs and really liked how their friendship binds them through thick and thin. I know what you mean about how it was shot. It feels very sophisticated for a 1931 film. A 17 for me as well. Replacement: another from this time period..."The Docks of New York".

cory said...

Oh, and thanks for watching it.

Shane said...

Yeah, I thought the two leads (not looking up their names) had good chemistry. I liked them together.

So you like this more than the nearly identical 'Modern Times'?

cory said...

Tough call. I would say I like this a little better because of the general tone, and it is more memorable, for me.