Some movies don’t need to be perfect. Some films are uneven and a little scattershot but couldn’t be anything else. Mister Freedom is one of those. The whole’s not greater than the sum of its parts, but the parts themselves are so huge, well, it doesn’t really matter. To say it peters out at the end wouldn’t be a lie — it does — though when it’s at its best it’s going along at a higher altitude than most consistently good movies.
The rough plot is that an American Cowboy-Football-Ultra-Patriot superhero is transplanted to France to staunch the influence of Anti-Freedom Forces, and ends up creating one-man Cold War. In such a film, though — the plot is more or less superfluous and the best technique is to just let the film wash all over you, bathing in its bright colors, absurdist lines and moving images.
If you’re wondering what the style is like – the artwork for the Pizzicato 5 EP Sister Freedom Tapes is an accurate parody/homage to the film. The cover of the EP is the same as the film poster‘s logo, and the inner sleeve features a combination of stills and parodies of some of the most memorable images from the film. Beck’s “Sexx Laws” video, directed by Beck himself, is about half stylistic-homage and about half outright parody of the film — particularly the end segment with a faux Daphne Seyrig and Jack Black dressed in one of the (only MIDDLING-ridiculous) Mister Freedom outfits.
These parodies, however, aren’t a patch on the real thing. In fact, nothing is. It’s a film that needs to be experienced. It probably won’t be your favorite movie — the problems mentioned above sort of prohibit it from being that — but it’s definitely something that you’ll never forget and most likely want to share with everyone. After all, how can you go wrong with a film that’s not only got a score by Serge Gainsbourg, but features him in a small role?
I suppose, to be fair, I should mention the bad things about the film. The film is a French film (by an American Ex-Pat director), though all the dialogue is in English — which sometimes doesn’t quite work when some of the French actors don’t seem to know the language that well. The film’s episodic nature sometimes works against it — and the scene with Red China Man (actually, an inflatable dragon) doesn’t really quite work or fit. While most bits work, it’s almost best appreciated as a collection of scenes, and like many films that are essentially sketch comedy, it can feel a LITTLE long. But those are all relatively minor issues — just because it’s not the best film it could be (and, rest assured, there IS a better film in here that could have been made) it doesn’t mean that it’s a BAD film. It doesn’t even mean it’s a MEDIOCRE film. It’s a blast. When it was over, about all I could do was stare open-gobbed at the screen for a couple minutes and finally get up and say excitedly “THAT. WAS. AWESOME.” And that’s probably the best recommendation I can give.
IT. IS. AWESOME.
NOTE: Since this was written, it was announced that Criterion was going to release this in a box set with Who Are You, Polly Maggoo and The Model Couple. So, after a very long time, this film will be available in the US. Check it out!