Monday, May 17, 2010

1966 - FAHRENHEIT 451, Truffaut's only but interesting Science Fiction film

Fahrenheit 451 was Francois Truffaut's only shot at an English language film.  The studio, the critics, the public and Truffaut himself were all disappointed with the finished film.  Watching this film 44 years later it looks pretty good to me. 


Universal Studios interfered throughout the film with Truffaut's ideas for his adaptation of the Bradbury book.  However Truffaut was a pretty tough guy and stuck to his principals facing down the wrath of the money men.  American studios throughout film history have always wanted to hire the hot foreign filmmakers then typically become frustrated with them when they don't conform to their studio notes.

The whole idea of hiring a person like Francois Truffaut is for him to make a "Truffaut" type film. Why employ Francois Truffaut in the first place if you don't want him to make his kind of film?  Truffaut was hardly some sort of artsy filmmaker screwball like Goddard.  He may have been an art house film director, but he was also a successful commercial director in France. 

Truffaut had his problems with the cast, his lead actor Oscar Werner  didn't get along at all during the filming.  Julie Christie was in her prime playing a double role as Werner's wife and a school teacher who lived down the street but that concept really didn't seem to come off.

Nicholas Roeg did his usual good job with the photography and Bernard Herrmann coming off being fired by Hitchcock for his Torn Curtain music, wrote one of his best scores for this film.  The film also had a lot of exciting montage scenes, Truffaut wasn't a film scholar for nothing.

Fahrenheit 451 is essentially a fable about a totalitarian society attempting to control it's citizen's by banning the reading of books.  The firemen in this film actually are firemen as they race around the countryside burning books.   The firetruck looks like a child's toy and Truffaut has a lot of little jokes  like having a fire pole where the firemen slide up instead of down.

The film was criticized at the time for being boring and undramatic, but the critics missed the point.  The whole idea in the film was that this was a society where thought and emotion was being repressed.  These concepts were dramatic enough and didn't need any more over wrought emoting which might have slid the who thing into some sort of weird science fiction melodrama. 

This film has been called Truffaut's attempt to make a Hitchcock like film, but the final scene in the snow with the book people is all Truffaut.   Hitchcock could have never achieved an ending scene like that.

 112 minutes.

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