Mr Freedom (1969)

Polly Maggoo gave me the impression of being a joke William Klein was telling mainly for his own enjoyment. Mr Freedom (F-R-double E-D-D-O-M!) was, for me, a lot more broadly accessible and more pleasurable, perhaps, too, because its target is a far bigger and more important one whose relevance has perhaps only increased thanks to events of the last decade… It’s a bit late to watch this as a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attack, but it’ll still do. On the surface this is a supremely absurd superhero movie; Mr Freedom (no true identity or past given) is the horrendous agent of Freedom Inc., sent to France to stop it being overrun by communists infilitrating via Switzerland (the forces of evil being led by Philippe Noiret in a massive padded suit and a giant inflatable dragon). Not far below the surface is a withering assault on American imperialism, manifested in this frankly appalling, bizarrely attired fascist bully who flings racist insults and window cleaners off balconies with equal casualness, operating in the service of a country where freedom is just another corporate product like the aisles full of other consumer goods at the US Embassy. I don’t know who John Abbey was, but he embodies this awful individual brilliantly, all pitch-perfect ham and smiling viciousness. Held up by French censors who thought it was a slur against France, it was also criticised by the French far left who didn’t find the caricature of them funny either, proving that you really can’t please everyone. I can’t imagine it being a hit in America, either, and yet when you consider how frankly psychotic the American right is in the Obama age, I find myself wondering how many of them would view Mr Freedom as a genuine hero. I mean, if you remade it today and had Mr Freedom fighting the socialist incursion of universal healthcare in a US led by a black president, why, he’d actually kind of be the embodiment of the Tea Party… I just wonder if they’d get the joke or not.

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