“I’m very happy to announce that we’ve destroyed at least half of the country. I hope now they’ll understand that aggression does not pay.”
That sums up the whole movie. It’s so obvious and loud and obnoxious and garish and that’s probably just what it intends to be. But it makes for an unpleasant viewing experience. I can’t imagine this movie screening in theaters without walkouts by exasperated viewers saying “I GET it already” (but probably saying that in french).
All-American titular superhero is introduced blithely massacring a black family in the middle of their dinner. Then Dr. Freedom (Donald Pleasence) calls to tell him that his French equivalent Captain Formidable has been killed and commies are invading France from neutral Switzerland. It’s up to Mr. Freedom to save the ungrateful French, not for any love of the country but to stop the dreaded domino effect and protect the world from communism.
Doesn’t play like a proper movie at all. Sometimes it feels like an advertisement (America’s priorities are more Capitalist than Democratic), and sometimes like a bunch of people goofing around and pretending to make a movie. The dubbing ain’t great, either.
Some funny touches: the american embassy in France is a wal-mart full of dancing girls. And sometimes the cheapness of the project turns into a lo-fi charm. Superfrenchman is played by a balloon with easily confused henchmen, and the also-inflatable Red China Man breathes frozen fog that settles on the ground.
Freedom of course ends up destroying most of France, his french guide Marie-Madeleine turns out to be a commie traitor, Russian Moujik Man is somewhat of an ally but can’t really be trusted. Freedom, not too fazed by the death of all his compatriots and followers, prevails through violence. Sadly it’s not a dated period piece and what Klein’s saying about American foreign policy applies perfectly well today.
Criterion: “Delightfully crass, Mr. Freedom is a trenchant, rib-tickling takedown of gaudy modern Americana.” It’s funny to think how many Criterion completists will soon own this movie.
Movie plays better in stills. When considering the screen shots I took, it seems almost like a good movie, clever and funny and ramshackle without the loud, boisterous, stagey dialogue to distract. In other words, it’s a much better movie when you’re not actually watching it. And since Klein was renowned in the 50’s as a still photographer and appears in Marker’s still-composed La Jetee, I’ve kept more screenshots than the film might deserve.
The introduction of Marienbad star Delphine Seyrig as Marie-Madeleine, yowza.
Captain Formidable is played by classy French icon Yves Montand:
“Anti-freedomism is at a new high.” Can’t get enough of that dress. Note Marie-Madeleine’s placement in front of the red portion of the map, foreshadowing the revelation that she is a communist spy. Just kidding.
Over a temporarily fallen Freedom, L-R: Moujik Man, Red China Man, Jesus & Mary
Freedom celebrates the defeat of Superfrenchman… I don’t remember exactly what went on here:
Forcing the maid to taste the poisoned food she brought. Nice shot setup:
I love this shot so much. The matching hair, the goofy look on Freedom’s face, the unexplained picture of Hitler hanging on Marie-Madeleine’s wall:
Serge Gainsbourg very nearly survives to the end:
Freedom! Now available in a convenient spray!