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Sep 30 2019

NYFF: Albert Serra's idea of "Liberté"

byJason Adams

What better way to make a movie about sadomasochism than to inflict that relationship on the viewer?That seems to have been the grain of an idea that ignited Albert Serra to makeLiberté,at least -- a fascinating nightmare slog that actively pokes you in the eye while also lulling you to sleep.I say all this with a sort of admiration!Perhaps I was brainwashed a bit by the time it was through but I certainly haven't been able to stop thinking aboutLibertésince I fell under its awful spell days ago,and that's got to count for something.

Somewhere in a patchy nighttime forest in 18th Century France an assemblage of powder-puffs,mostly men but with a couple of corseted ladies who keep caged up in their litter boxes -- the proper word is really "palanquin"but "litter box"will totally make sense once you've seen/suffered the movie -- have gathered to cavort.And cavort they shall,in the slowest of motions...

The first middle school dance I remember going to was the cartoon version of a Middle School Dance -- the boys stood on one side,the girls on the other,and we shifted uncomfortably as Paula Abdul played too loudly on the speakers.Libertéoften feels like that,just with somebody tugging their flaccidity in the gorgeously lensed spectral moonlight.(This thing shoots its ugliness with astonishing starlit aplomb.)

The film is a true test of the will,and I wasn't surprised to see people walk out of the screening -- it's a provocation,often grotesque and meandering,and it wears nothing like araison d'êtreon any of its soiled puffy sleeves.Genitals and flab flaps slowly in the breeze,and urine sprays like sea foam across foggy stillness.So what is the point,if any?

The most often noted texts I've seen the film compared to have been the Marquis de Sade and Pasolini's filmSalo,neither of which you can discuss the import of without placing them into their own individual political contexts.AndLiberté,a film about the depravities of the bored and boundlessly wealthy,seems to situate itself,without straining too hard to blast its themes,in that same space.I saw something of a Mar-a-lago in the weeds -- Jeffrey Epstein's French Adventure Island.

The question I found myself coming back to time and again while watching the film -- besides "My god how long is this going to go on for?"-- was which were the characters that were actually in charge at any moment.Who was actually rich,and who was actually a prostitute dressed up as a rich plaything to alternately be degraded and then quickly turn the tables and do the degrading.The power dynamics were endlessly shifting;the illusion of power itself eventually became laid bare between those jiggling buttocks.The person who scratches their way to the top last ends up king of the jungle.

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Reader Comments (1)

This was one of your best reviews,Jason.

September 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

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