In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_45y1g5fegttpawjtyic6czc9xcn

Logan

The best superhero movie in years.

Thumb_rock_dog

Rock Dog

I can report that it enraptured and delighted, and most importantly, made quiet, the houseful of little kids and their nannies with which I watched…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Sundance Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

The Fire Within

The Fire Within Movie Review
  |   May Contain Spoilers

Seems to me it was John Huston who observed that a movie shouldn't be "based" on a book but inspired by it. Movies that are faithful to the book are usually dull and plodding affairs, because the things that make a book good are far removed from what makes a movie work. So the director should distill the essence of the book, Huston decided.

Louis Malle has done that brilliantly in "The Fire Within," which isn't exactly based on Scott Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited" but is certainly inspired by it. Indeed, Malle's hero reads the Fitzgerald story in the days before his suicide, finishing the last page just before he pulls the trigger. So that the two men -- Fitzgerald's and Malle's -- live parallel lives.

Advertisement

Malle is one of the less-known French New Wave directors (although his "Zazie" is a film society favorite), and this film never received a U.S. commercial release after its triumph at the 1964 New York Film Festival. So it comes to us now as a rediscovered treasure, a film that would have been influential for the past five years -- if only it had been shown.

Malle's character seems superficially similar to Fitzgerald himself. He is a writer, living in Paris, who lived in New York for a while but is now divorced from his wife there. And he is an alcoholic, whose addiction had undermined his confidence in his art and his manhood. We find him living in a rest home, where he voluntarily took the cure and then decided to stay.

He lives in a bemused and private world. He speaks softly to himself, he hums, he moves silently about his room, he toys with esoteric bric-a-brac, he is preoccupied with the enormous thought of his own death. Urged by the doctor to leave because he is "cured," the writer goes to Paris one day and systematically revisits several of his friends. He drinks too much and makes a fool of himself at a party; he questions the fundamental worth of his friends' bourgeois existence; finally he comes back to the home and, hardly seeming moved even now, kills himself.

The film is a triumph of style. It is quiet and indicative. It doesn't explain a lot, but we understand a lot about it all the same. And in the concerned, indifferent, kind, cruel behavior of his friends, we see ourselves acting toward people like him, or acted toward by people like them. Rarely does a film so carefully portray this complexity of personal relationships.

Popular Blog Posts

Netflix's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" an Unfunny Parody of Sadness

A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.

Bill Paxton: 1955-2017

A tribute to the late actor and director, Bill Paxton.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

"Moonlight," "La La Land" Win Big at Academy Awards

The winners of the 89th Academy Awards.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus