Friday, May 23, 2014

THE FIRE WITHIN (1963) - Louis Malle

Only a very depressed Frenchman could make love to a beautiful woman in the morning then go to a party later that night where several more beautiful French tell him they always found him attractive and, still, he wants to put a gun to his own chest by sunrise. Come on, Alain, you've got options! Long-legged options! What gives?! Yes, you had a bad break-up with your wife years before (or so it seems). Yes, you're on leave from a "rest clinic" for depression, past alcoholism. And, yes, life is basically merde and you've started to fall off the wagon again. But, buddy, your life isn't nearly as merde as most of the common-folk. Like those truck drivers you hitch a ride with in the middle of the film and ask: "How are you OK with making so little money?" It's kind of dick question. And, unless there's something you're not telling us (better yet, something Malle's not showing us), your ennui with a capital "E" seems a little more existential than actual.

If Malle could've made me feel the depths of Alain's despair a little more viscerally and from less of an artistic remove, it might've worked. The Fire Within is a well-made film about depression and doesn't pull any false punches, but, for me, its effect was trapped in the amber of the French upper class (see also The Lovers). For a similar, more recent film that mines the same terrain and maybe a little more deeply, visit Oslo, August 31st. Those Norwegians do suicidal depression even better than the French

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