Sunday, July 06, 2008

Mr. Freedom

Mr. Freedom (William Klein, 1969) [5]

Klein's scathing satire of America's jingoistic bullying has never been readily available for viewing until this recent release as part of Criterion's Eclipse series. While the film get some points for being brutally harsh, the whole never quite adds up to make a great film. I've always held the belief that satire is either really good or really bad. While not completely either, Mr. Freedom misses its mark. The story revolves around a quasi super hero named Mr. Freedom, part of Freedom, Inc., a company whose goal appears to be spreading America's political and economic message around the world. Mr. Freedom has been dispatched to France, where Marxist and Chinese elements are undermining freedom and the like. Mr. Freedom arrives and bullies his way around attempting to get his way. When the French people reject him, Mr. Freedom has no choice but to blow the shit out of the country. It all plays out a little too ham-handed for me to really agree with it, but it fits into the kind of comic book mind the film has. The character of Mr. Freedom is a stock comic character, a la Captain America but Klein gets under the jingoistic facade to expose a scary underbelly. Mr. Freedom is an overt racist, and the beginning of the film shows him crashing into a black family's apartment and shooting one of them, thinking they're looters. It's incredibly harsh and while it may work to a certain degree, it really overshadows any of the more clever satire in the film. Those moments have less to do with Mr. Freedom himself but the skewering of the consumerist culture America has exported throughout the world. The best moment is when Mr. Freedom arrives in France and heads to the U.S. Embassy, which is essentially a supermarket. If there was a bit more of that, I may have liked it more. The other real flaw which just takes me out of the film is that the dialogue is horrible synced at times; it shouldn't make a difference and Klein was still a novice filmmaker at the time, but come on, you can do better than that.

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