A Nous la Liberte, known as Freedom For Us in English, is a very early French talkie that looks and feels very much like what it really is. It tells a slightly amusing story, filled with a sense of wonder, and even a bit of a message about the world it lives in. All of these are prime elements for getting an early sound film on the list, and indeed that might have been what did it in the case of this one. This film, in an odd way that I’ll explain, reminded me of Enter the Dragon; I wasn’t sure why it was this one, and not some other film, that was the groundbreaker it is, but again, I guess I can live with it.
Two convicts plan an escape from prison, and one succeeds, with the other unable to join him. The now free man, after fortuitous circumstances give him a new life, gets a job as an overseer in a factory. The other man, after some time later when he is paroled, eventually finds his way to the factory as well, and comic and dramatic plotlines ensue as the men try and keep up their new lives without their pasts coming back to haunt them, which of course they end up doing. This was an odd mix of The Jazz Singer and Modern Times, with the former’s still silent-heavy storytelling and apparent alternating sound and silent scenes (along with the occasional sing-a-long number), and the latter’s whimsical approach to the ‘modern life’ of the day. It felt like a very early French sound film, because it was; it didn’t elevate itself above merely testing out the new technology and seeing how to use it, never actually ‘using’ it or upping its game because of it. Also, another dead giveaway was the reliance on the extensive musical score to help tell the story; it bopped and moved however it needed to in order to get us to feel the emotions required by us for each respective scene. I also use the comparison between this and Modern Times not lightly; several of the assembly line gags seemed to be lifted directly into Chaplin’s later film, and Chaplin would later reach a settlement with the guys behind this one; Clair, however, only felt honor that Chaplin’s work would be seen as similar to his, due to his respect for the man. The film also has quite a bit to say about the state of the modern workforce, through various humor bits that take place in factories, comparing them to prisons and whatnot.
I wasn’t too keen on the story this one told, or the way in which it told it. The way the actors convey the information through expression and mime didn’t seem consistent with how people actually would react to such information; it was too fantastical, which would’ve been acceptable (given that it’s a movie, after all) if the film weren’t basically set in reality. Also, if I hadn’t known going into this that it was considered a comedy, I probably wouldn’t have been as irked as I was; I don’t think I laughed once throughout this entire picture, and while I’ve come to expect a little less laughter from the films that the list passes off as comedies, I still expected something. I even would’ve taken a general sense of amusement, which is usually the outcome when I watch a list comedy, but I didn’t even get that. It’s that reason that is why I gave the film the rating I did; this is much more a personal rating than it is the rating/liking I’d expect the average moviegoer to have with this film. You might be a 7, and some small number of you may even be an 8, but I just didn’t find this humorous, and the film really had nothing else going for it.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10