Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451, 1966
Dir: Francois Truffaut
December 15, 2009

More Hitchcock from Truffaut, except this time he directs his only English language film that not only blends Hitch but also dark 60s sci-fi along with his own sense of light whimsy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I'm assuming every 8th-grader ever has read this so I won't go into the story, but Truffaut (wisely, I think) leaves things out that are in the novel to keeps things tight, and yet also lets him do his typical meandering thing within those scenes. Oskar Werner (Jules from Jules et Jim) plays Montag the "fireman," and I'm not quite sure how his accent played out in this. At the beginning I suppose it's alright, where you can identify with that "foreign" totalitarianism. Julie Christie does a nice double act as Linda/Clairisse, and I want to say she is a mega-babe but seems like she'd be way too nice. She's very attractive anyway. As the story progresses and he starts to read books, Montag gets "anti-social" (seriously, parts of the novel make no sense and I was thinking about it while watching this) and "weird," which is bad. He's not fighting the system, he's just being a nerd. Who cares, right? I guess that's more a problem of the story than the film. The film itself is an exercise in style over substance, and in creating a futuristic realm with a palpable sense of “otherness,” Truffaut succeeds in creating a wonky dystopian fantasy world that only occasionally feels brutally left in the 60s. All of this is captured through unique compositions (with an even more unique color palette) by cinematographer Nicolas Roeg. Best of all, in keeping with the story's theme, printed word is not allowed (take that Godard). Therefore the opening title sequence cleverly (and ominously) uses a detached voice-over as the camera pans a sea of rooftops, each of which has a television antenna broadcast directly to the unthinking zombies. The story is a little played out, but only Truffaut would have made the film like this.


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