Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Olde Review: The Fire Within

This was part of a series of reviews of the ASUW Film series back in the '70's. Except for some punctuation, I haven't changed anything from the way it was presented, giving the kid I was back in the '70's a break. Any stray thoughts and updates I've included with the inevitable asterisked post-scripts.

This Saturday's ASUW films in 130 Kane are billed under the theme "The Tragedy of the Spirit" and the two films are Louis Malle's "The Fire Within" and Ingmar Bergman's "Persona."

"The Fire Within" aka "Le Feu Follet"(Louis Malle, 1963) "The Fire Within" was advertised as "a psychological thriller," which is a totally mis-leading label. It is not a thriller at all, but a study. A study of a man cured of alcoholism and, of his past life. I tell you this only because if you go to "The Fire Within" expecting something along the lines of a "Marnie," you are going to be sorely disappointed, and such a reaction does not allow a fast shift og the emotional gears in order to appreciate what is there. Just a warning to put you in a proper frame of mind.

Anyway, through a long stay at a rest clinic the man has dried out, sheltered from the environment that had led him to the irresponsibility of his previous life, but clinging to that shelter, fearing to leave it for fear of what he would find outside. After some bolstering he does go out in search of friends, of companionship, of the past he has lost. Life is moving too slowly for him, with too much mediocrity and too little love, and as he goes from friend to friend, his spirit slips away from him, beyond his control.

Louis Malle who directed "The Fire Within," also directed the documentary "Phantom India" which was shown a couple weeks back,* and he shoots this film in much the same way--no real sets are used, but the odd little details of life around us are focussed upon, giving the film a sense of reality, of it actually happening.

Broadcast on KCMU-FM on October 29th, 1975

Okay. Confession time. What I'm not saying in this review--trying very hard not to say--is that I hate sitting through Louis Malle films. I just despise it. I haven't seen one in 20 years (the man died in 1995), but each of his films was a bit of a drag--"Lacombe, Lucien," "Phantom India," "Pretty Baby." I just finished watching "Night Moves" in which detective Harry Moseby begs off going to see the new "Roehmer film" because he says "it's like watching paint dry." That's how I feel about Malle. I remember at this time (1975), I went around joking that "the perfect Louis Malle film would be two guys sitting in a room talking, one camera." And in 1981, Malle made essentially that (though with more than one camera) with "My Dinner with Andre" (which I actually liked, come to think of it).

One day, I need to be sat down in front of the TV with a strong drink, strapped down and made to watch "Atlantic City" or "The Lovers," or "Crackers," "Vanya on 42nd Street"--I'd like to see that, actually, or "Damage" or "Au revoir, les enfants." Maybe the years will have mellowed me, or given me life-experience or patience enough to appreciate his work. But with so many films I haven't seen, and my past experience, Malle always gets pushed to the bottom of the pile.

C'est la vie.

* Yeah, I'll get to it.

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