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France / Italy, 1963 (MIFF 1965)

Director: Louis Malle

Le Feu Follet is about suicide. lt is an adaptation by Malle himself of a short novel, originally pub­lished in 1931, recounting the last twenty-four hours in the life of Alain, an ex -playboy, at the end of his tether. This version carefully preserves the literary tone of the original narrative, vividly con­veying the hero's disgust and fatigue with the endless merry go round of smart, vapid society. Alain repre­sents a whole generation of burnt-out individuals who feel that they have had their youth at thirty, and are unable to step over the chasm into a respon­sible maturity. Never melodramatic and with the direction under the most complete control, there is a tragic inevitability in the progress of the story.

As is usual with Malle, the film is technically im­peccable visual composition throughout is flawless, the classical build-up of mood soberly backed by Satie's music the spare, cool, black and while photography of Ghislam Cloquet fulfils its function aptly as the camera returns again and again to the face of Alain, pursuing him untiringly up each of the blind alleys he explores in his search for a reason lo go on living. It is a tribute to the director that what one carries away from the film is the character of Alain, superbly embodied by Maurice Ronet and the faces of a few whose lives briefly impinge on his, particularly of Jeanne Moreau.

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