SXSW Film '10 Preview — Phantom of Liberty II

Phantom of Liberty II is a free-flowing documentary that explores time and its impact on people — more or less. A Czech Republic/German production,Phantom of Liberty II is kind of like an episode of This American Life if radio host Ira Glass had attention deficient disorder. While not a direct sequel to Serge Silberman’s 1974 film The Phantom of Liberty, both movies share a similar structure.

Director Karel Zalud’s film, shot beautifully on 35mm, meanders from subject to subject looking for stories that illustrate the behaviors and outlooks that are elicited by the passing of time. A mostly unseen narrator keeps the camera moving, quickly leaving subjects even if they are not completely done telling their mostly mundane anecdotes.

With a style evoking Richard Linklater’s Slackers, Phantom of Liberty II visits with a wide selection of mostly unconnected and seemingly randomly found citizens — including a funeral director, a train operator, a group of elderly actors and a businessman.

Keeping with the documentary’s theme, Phantom of Liberty II is edited in a non-linear, almost circular fashion. The documentary subjects’ selection radiates out from the movie’s beginning, eventually forming a full circle much like a clock’s face — ending where the movie began with its first subject.

While I would love to recommend Phantom of Liberty II to everybody, I cannot. While the film, with its intricate scale and epic scope, was interesting to watch — it is very much for a niche audience. Specifically, those interested in experimental film.

It’s a complex movie worth discussion, but in a festival as large and varied as South by Southwest, Phantom of Liberty II is doomed by the very thing the film documents — the limitations of a person’s available time.

Category: SX Global
Director: Karel Zalud
Showtimes: Sunday, March 14 at 4 PM at The Hideout and Tuesday, March 16 at 2 PM at The Hideout

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The South by Southwest film festival will be held in Austin from March 12 through the 20th. For more information about attending the festival and the films being shown, visit

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