Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fahrenheit 451: 3/5

François Truffaut is one of those guys who is more familiar to me because of a side project than for his main thing.  But I love Ray Bradbury's classic story, and I had heard that French cinema was interesting, so I thought I'd give it a try.  The results?  Not as good as I would have liked, but better than I expected.

Three Up

1.  Julie Christie was nominated for the BAFTA for best actress that year for her roles as both Linda Montag and Clarisse.*  The best way I can do justice to her performance is to point out that I had no idea she played both roles until after the movie was over.  In my mind, there is no single higher feat in acting than to portray two characters so independently that nobody can tell.  Plus, it makes me wonder what Truffaut was trying to tell us with that.

*Notably, she was nominated twice that year: for her role in Doctor Zhivago and her role in F-451.

2.  Maybe it's a French New Wave thing, maybe it's a Truffaut thing, maybe it's an homage-to-Hitchcock thing, but I really dug the longer cuts.  Sometimes I like to count off seconds between cuts while watching boring movies.  This movie wasn't boring, but I noticed that the cuts were unusually long, so I tried to count.  I lost count.  And I was awesome at seeking in hide-and-seek, so you know I can count pretty high.  But neatness isn't greatness.  The long cuts became great because they contributed to the story and broke down walls between the audience and the characters.  By keeping us in one place for so long (actually, we were moving around like somebody in the room), Truffaut tried to help us forget about the fourth wall.  It felt more like we were actually in the room observing the events first-hand rather than outside the room observing the events through a TV.

3.  Finally, I loved the deep irony about a movie that presented as dystopic a future where people only watch TV.  Granted, the TV was terrible (with terrible acting and terrible storylines).  So maybe Truffaut was trying to suggest that an appreciation for great books (like Bradbury's classic) leads to the making of great movies?

Three Down

1.  Although I liked Montag, he never broke through for me.  He never became more than a guy on a stage.  His passive response to Linda's betrayal left me cold.

2.  Although I generally liked the long takes, I don't get the point of the long takes of the fire trucks.  I mean, it seems like the fire company was driving way the heck away from the firehouse, but why was that important?  Was Truffaut fluffing?  What's going on with that?  The film is only 112 minutes long . . .

3.  I found the "video wall" disappointingly small.  This is supposed to be the future, and the illusion is supposed to actually convince us.  There's just something not convincing about a little bitty screen.  I know they had projection technology back then (as in, you know, movie theaters), so it's not a question of technology and effects.  It seems to me that Truffaut made a choice with which I disagree.  And I hate him for it.  No, actually, I hate him for the long takes with the fire trucks.

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