The Phantom of Liberty
Bourgeois convention is demolished in Luis Buñuel’s surrealist gem The Phantom of Liberty. Featuring an elegant soiree with guests seated at toilet bowls, poker-playing monks using religious medals as chips, and police officers looking for a missing girl who is right under their noses, this perverse, playfully absurd comedy of non sequiturs deftly compiles many of the themes that preoccupied Buñuel throughout his career—from the hypocrisy of conventional morality to the arbitrariness of social arrangements.
The Criterion Collection presents The Phantom of Liberty in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this dual-layered DVD. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.
The image overall is "okay", nothing to get too excited about unfortunately. While most of it presents a clean looking image, with fairly sharp details and nicely saturated colours, black levels can be rather poor, presenting washed out dark sequences. Artifacts and noise are noticeable throughout and there is some edge-enhancement.
The print, though, is fairly clean. Grain is present but print damage is surprisingly minimal, with only an odd blemish showing up here and there.
It’s an average transfer and it presents the film well enough, but in comparison with some of Criterion’s other transfers at the time it is fairly weak.
The French Dolby Digital soundtrack is decent but not impressive. Dialogue is clear, but music sounds a little rough, though I think this is how it’s supposed to play out in certain sequences. But the track overall has a fairly flat quality to it, nothing really stands out.
This is where I was really disappointed. Considering the film I figured something maybe closer to a Discreet Charm... disc. In the end we only get two supplements for barely a total of 8-minutes.
The big supplement is an interview/introduction with Jean-Claude Carriere, who collaborated with Bunuel on the film. He discusses the basic idea behind the movie, and then spends half of it talking about his favourite segment (the little missing girl sequence.) Unfortunately a minute of it is made up of clips from the movie, and the segment is only four and a half minutes long. I’d love to get some more insight into this film and this supplement is to slim..
You then get an odd theatrical trailer as the only other disc supplement. But you also get a fairly decent sized booklet, about 30 pages (almost half of it is photos, though), with an essay by Gary Indiana and an interview with Bunuel. These both prove to be good reads, especially the interview with Bunuel.
A commentary would have been interesting, or maybe, at least, a more insightful interview with Carriere. As it stands, though, it’s a disappointing set of supplements.
In the end, though, I am somewhat disappointed with this DVD. The transfer was disappointing and even more so was the lack of supplements. Others may be pleased just to have it on DVD, and will probably be fine with the transfer anyways. Still I wish a little more went into it.
I’m happy to have the film on DVD at least. I’m a fan of Bunuel’s films and I do find this one a rather fun film. But I was let down by this DVD. The transfer is average and I still feel the film calls out for more informative supplements. A bit of missed opportunity.