. . . The Phantom of Liberty

. . .

Movie Comment: The Phantom of Liberty

I've never understood why so many of this movie's viewers complain about the shallow absurdity of the fate it apportions its mass murderer. On first sight and every sight since, it's sent chills up my spine and a gurgling chortle down my throat; it seems the pinnacle pivot in a science fictional narrative constructed as thoroughly as possible of pivots.

The tidy bespectacled protagonist of the episode has tidily and distantly, like a perfectly manicured deity, dispatched about a half-dozen utterly random humans. We see him in his skyscraper with his long-range rifle; more tellingly we see several scenes of people walking normally through the city's streets and then individuals among them silently (due to the long range of the rifle), inexplicably plummeting to the ground like so many god-despised sparrows. Have they fainted? Are they pulling some kind of scam? No; it's simply that they used to live and now they don't.

And that's not even abnormal, is it? Just sort of a shock to those around them. Like a slaughterhouse or a legal proceeding is shocking (to nonprofessionals) without being in the least abnormal.

The protagonist is quite rightly found guilty of premeditated murder, and condemned to death. He shrugs. He's congratulated. He's given an cigarette. (In another episode of the movie, that other episode's protagonist is told of his terminal cancer by his friend who's also his doctor who to offset the diagnostic blow offers him a cigarette and is quite rightly struck down by a punch in the face.) He leaves the courtroom, to walk normally through the city's streets.

Is this really so hard to follow?

UPDATE 2018-11-10: Axiom-of-Cinema David Cairns's defense of another narrative thread got me going all over again:

Similarly, the kidnapping subplot doesn't feel completely arbitrary to me -- wonderfully silly, but not arbitrary. Adults often do ignore the exhaustingly alien inner lives of children in favor of making them story points in the adults' drama: "Please don't interrupt Mommy when she's telling the doctor about your ADD." It's also a nice dream reversal of the old "kid witnesses a crime but no one will listen" story. In this case a kid DOESN'T witness a crime and no one believes her.


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All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.