A Nous la Liberte (1931)

Article #693 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 2-6-2003
Posting date: 7-6-2003
Directed by Rene Clair
Featuring Raymond Cordy, Henri Marchand, Paul Ollivier

When two convicts try to make a prison esscape, only one succeeds while the other sacrifices his chances to let the other one get away. Years later they meet again, the one who made his escape having become a phonograph tycooon, and the other still a vagrant.

The above description certainly doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with fantastic cinema, but since some of the plot revolves around the tycoon’s new fully-automated factory, it does fall within the bounds of science fiction. It’s a pretty amazing movie; despite having certain satirical points to make, it never becomes dark or heavy-handed. Thanks must go to Rene Clair, whose ability to add a light and delicate comic touch to all that he does is in prominence here; two scenes in particular where the action seamlessly flows from the devastatingly sad to the joyous (one involving an attempted suicide, the other when the tycoon first meets his old friend and believes he’s there to blackmail him) illustrate a master at work. The two friends are excellent (Henri Marchand and Raymond Cordy) as well as the rest of the cast. It apparently has strong similarities to Chaplin’s later MODERN TIMES, so much so that there were some legal actions taken. I’d heard about this movie for years; I’m overjoyed to finally have had a chance to see it.

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