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  Mr. Freedom The American Slay
Year: 1969
Director: William Klein
Stars: John Abbey, Delphine Seyrig, Donald Pleasence, Jean-Claude Drouot, Serge Gainsbourg, Yves Lefebvre, Sabine Sun, Rita Maiden, Philippe Noiret, Sami Frey, Catherine Rouvel, Colin Drake, Pierre Baillot, Raoul Billerey, Yves Montand
Genre: Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Superhero Mr Freedom (John Abbey) knows he's needed wherever the American Way is threatened, and in the U.S.A. there are riots in the streets such is the social unrest. Yet it's not his homeland that he's to be concerned with here, as he is interrupted when terrorising a black family by the call on his wrist TV to go to see his boss, Dr Freedom (Donald Pleasence) at the headquarters. The Doctor appears to him on a large screen in a darkened room and tells him the fight for freedom is going well, but there has been a setback in France and their national superhero, Captain Formidable, has been killed leaving the forces of Communism a gap where they can take over. It's up to Mr Freedom to go over there, mobilise their local sympathisers to the American cause, and let battle begin.

"Subtle" is not a word that can easily be used to describe writer and director William Klein's satire on American foreign policy and values, but I suppose his targets are far from subtle themselves. Taking the comic book approach, he fashions a crazy, at times garbled amalgam of red, white and blue imagery that frequently descends into chaotic running around, firing off its volleys in all directions. Abbey makes for a convincingly self-righteous patriot in his star and stripes uniform, standing over six feet tall and dwarfing most of the other actors, and comes across as the type of guy John Wayne would have had no trouble backing.

When Mr Freedom arrives in France he is met by a mystery woman in a lift who tries to attack him, but he easily overpowers her. It turns out she is Marie-Madeleine (Delphine Seyrig), who was the sidekick of Captain Formidable (who we see in a brief vision is actually Yves Montand), and takes the hero to a rally held in his honour. Klein is strong on these iconic scenes and the sloganeering that goes with them, but too often such sequences involve an awful lot of shouting to little effect other than impressing you with their staging. At the rally, Mr Freedom meets his French counterparts, none as, erm, formidable as he is, and they draw up a plan of action that is never entirely clear to us in the audience.

There are some good jokes, such as the one where the hero winds up in his hotel room, menacingly follows the window cleaner around and eventually throws him over the balcony, just in case. He's perhaps more justified in ordering the maid to eat his breakfast eggs, as they're poisoned - he didn't order any eggs - but it shows how he is happy to let others die for his cause. His main antagonists are Red China Man, a huge inflatable dragon, and Moujik Man, a communist played by Philippe Noiret in a bulky red suit, who he meets in their Parisian lair (along with a helpful Jesus, for some reason). The whole theme can be summed up in the way that Americans use destruction to get their way internationally, and that decimation can be as much the goal as any plans for bringing democracy to whatever region isn't doing exactly as they say - Mr Freedom basically lays waste to France here. As this is a comedy, and a strange one at that, broad strokes are the order of the day, so while the film is pleasing to the eye, whether it engages your brain is another matter. Music by Michel Colombier.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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