“Smugglers' Songs”: A Glimpse down the Road to Freedom

This episodic, easy-rolling saga of nomadic living and grassroots insurgency centers on a convivial band of armed traders in the French provinces in the 1850s. The monarchy finds them intolerable, for the Mandrins — named for their martyred leader — are “smugglers” not only of goods but ideas that herald new ways of life and new forms of government. A selective yet inclusive bunch, the Mandrins cheerfully accept (and educate) an Army deserter, a peddler, and a subversive marquis in their cause. The analogies to Occupy Wall Street and other movements are inescapable; when the privileges and provocations of the moneyed class become too onerous, the people rise up. Neither terrorists nor proponents of nonviolence, the Mandrins abide by an unspoken code that Bob Dylan distilled into a single line a couple centuries later: “To live outside the law, you must be honest.” A glimpse of the twisting road to freedom rather than a cathartic and moralistic tale of triumph, Smugglers' Songs gradually insinuates us into a world that is nowhere near as distant, or foreign, as it first appears.

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