Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Le Feu Follet
France, 1963. Nouvelles Editions de Films. Adaptation by Louis Malle, based on the novel by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle. Cinematography by Ghislain Cloquet. Music by Erik Satie. Production Design by Bernard Evein. Costume Design by Gitt Magrini. Film Editing by Suzanne Baron.
Louis Malle goes deep into the soul with this beautiful look at the life of a hopeless man. Maurice Ronet is terrific as a blocked writer, recently returned to Paris from New York, who resolves to kill himself before spending his final day wallowing in misery. He sleeps with his girlfriend, consults with the doctor at the clinic where he has been living to cure himself of his alcoholism, and attends a dinner with friends. The whole time he is unable to really grasp a desire to go ahead with life, and is resolved to never go back to the wife he left behind in the States. Despite its somber theme, the film’s artistic exuberance is uplifting, with Malle doing a terrific job of finding tender beauty in so much sadness. The only drawback is a pace that is at times sluggish; the film feels longer than its length, but its poignancy makes it worthwhile. Look for the inimitable Jeanne Moreau in a terrific cameo appearance.
The Criterion Collection: #430
Venice Film Festival Award: Special Jury Prize