The Mask opens with footage of street performers in the Parisian subway system playing a song about freedom. The passengers and passers by ignore them. It is 1989 and the French are celebrating the Bicentennial of the French Revolution leading up to Bastille Day. Dutch director Johan van der Keuken comments on the action through voice-over narration. He follows Philippe, a young homeless man, as he aimlessly wanders the streets observing the festivities. Philippe, along with some older drunk men, enjoy the national sentiments and decry the Arabs and North Africans immigrating into France robbing them of jobs. Philippe is neatly dressed and has a job as a waiter, but appears unable to lead a settled life. He confesses to being "blocked," "paralyzed," and "unstable" hiding behind a mask of impassivity. Van der Keuken hints at the personal and societal roots of Philippe's difficulties, but seems more interested in juxtaposing Philippe against his milieu. He occasionally cuts to media propaganda for the Bicentennial -- a television movie and advertisements -- to humorously contrast the ideals of the Revolution and the France of today.
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