Mr. Freedom

It’s not normally our practice to feature screenings scheduled in advance of our Friday cover date, but William Klein’s Mr. Freedom rates an exception for the sake of those readers who pick up their papers on Thursday afternoon. An over-the-top fantasy-satire made in 1968, it’s conceivably the most anti-American movie ever made, though there’s no doubt that only an American (albeit an expatriate living in France) could have made it. Despite Klein’s well-deserved international reputation as a still photographer, his films are almost completely unknown in the U.S., so his spirited and hilarious second feature which inaugurates a small retrospective of his works at the Film Center–offers an ideal introduction to his volatile talent. Filmed in slam-bang comic book style, Mr. Freedom describes the exploits and adventures of a heroic, myopic, and knuckleheaded free world agent (Playtime’s John Abbey) who arrives in Paris to do battle against the Russian and Chinese communists, embodied by Moujik Man (a colossal cossack padded out with foam rubber) and the inflatable Red China Man (a dragon who fills an entire metro station). Donald Pleasence is the hero’s sinister LBJ-like boss, and Delphine Seyrig at her giddiest plays the sexy, duplicitous double agent who shows him the ropes and then some. Done in a Punch-and-Judy manner that occasionally suggests both Godard and Kubrick, and combining guerrilla-style documentary with expressionism, this feisty political cartoon remains one of the most singular expressions we have of 60s irreverence. With Serge Gainsbourg, Jean-Claude Drouot, Sami Frey, and Yves Lefebvre. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, December 7, 6:00, 443-3737)

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