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The Fire Within (Criterion Collection)

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Product Description

Criterion Spine number 430

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 13 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
The Indelible Stain Aug. 23 2010
By Urbun Scrawler - Published on
Louis Malle made his film when he was 30, after having had great success, because, as he tells it, he suddenly felt that life had no meaning. Nothing mattered, he said, and so he made this film--about an alcoholic writer just released from a drying-out clinic who calmly decides to kill himself--as a way of exorcising his demons and his depression. He was not an alcoholic himself but had a close friend who'd killed himself. In fact, the actor who plays Alain, the marvelous Maurice Ronet, had periodic problems with alcoholism, and at Malle's insistence, lost 40 lbs. to play the part of the existentially despairing hero. The director was so obsessed with the character of Alain that he had Ronet wear many of his (Malle's) clothes and put his personal effects around the rooms Alain inhabited. The shoot was uncomfortably intense for everyone on the set, because it was so personal for Malle as its director, and for Ronet because the character was so close to who he was.

The disturbing fact of this wholly absorbing film is that for some people there is no fix or cure for life. Some have perceived Alain as self-pitying, lazy, or self-obsessed, but look at the café scene where he watches all the people drift breezily by, in twos and threes, chatting, connected to each other, and you can almost feel the excruciating loneliness of the outsider looking in, unable to feel a part. His reaction is to down his cognac, but he knows the booze can no longer dull the pain he feels that he cannot love or be loved. He loathes himself because he cannot locate that essential capacity in himself and death seems to be the only answer. This is the most eviscerating portrayal of alcoholism and man's search for meaning that I've ever seen, and a sad testament to the fact that people do die of loneliness.

Malle was asked if he regained his sense of meaning after he made this film. Yes, he said, I felt very alive, but I also knew my meaning had to come through being connected to other people. And he was.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
"Le Feu Follet" July 18 2010
By R. Howe - Published on
Louis Malle's The Fire Within (Le feu follet) released in 1963 is a French masterpiece. Yes, I sad it, a masterpiece. Sadly, Louis Malle wasn't as big a name as Godard, Truffuat, Melville, or even Rohmer, that is, until The Criterion Collection, that pinnacle of all film distribution post-VHS since it's inception over 15 years ago, single-handed brought Malle's name to the forefront with it's release of another classic, "Elevator To The Gallows". The re-release made his name as common as the other big three 60's French New Wave auters. As a film buff, I get excited when I go to Criterion's website and see what is coming soon to DVD. They are the gold standard of film. I missed "Elevator From The Gallows" when it was first released, so when "The Lovers" and "The Fire Within" were released simultaneously with the cool cover art I quickly jumped on it. Both films were great but I enjoyed "The Fire Within" to such an extent that I watched it over and over and over throughout the week. "The Fire Within", considered to be in the French New Wave genre, could quite easily be placed in the "Poetic Realism" category with it's poetic similarity to 1930s & mainly 1940s work of Rene Clement, esp "Forbidden Games", and Marcel Carne, whose "Children Of Paradise", arguably the greatest French film and one of the most poetic films ever made by a LARGE studio. I feel extremely fortunate that Criterion exists, in that it opens my eyes to films which I otherwise would not be able to experience. And, of the hundreds of 5 star films they have released, "The Fire Within" ranks up there as one of the greatest.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Masterpiece July 13 2008
By Helena - Published on
Disturbing story about a man approaching 30 who is hospitalized in mental institution. What seems to be a drinking problem has much deeper roots in this troubling person. He has friends, many of them scattered all over Paris. They are mostly artists he has known since he was very young. Long ago they had their adventures together, the usual stuff; drinking, drugs, women, parties. But now they are more or less settled in teh routine of ordinary lives. They are married, with or without children and pursue their youthful dreams more as a sidekick to their day job(s). They have replaced their dreams with responsibilities of paying the bills, raising children or selling commercial art. He is lost: his marriage to an American woman named Dorothy is falling apart, his writing career is going nowhere, and his handsome looks cannot compensate for his feelings of sexual inadequacy. In the world of adolescence lost, he is unable to make transformation of his own and that makes him deeply troubled and depressed. His friends are amazing: accessible, understanding, compassionate and non-judgemental. But that does not seem to be enought. I absolutely loved this movie, becuase I believe that in the point of any adult's life there must have been moment(s) when we all felt so helpless and alone in the world the way this man feels throughout the entire movie. It is wonderful to see Jeanne Moreau in the role of his woman/painter/artist friend whose refuge from the world is drugs (hashish). Maurice Ronet's performance of a man lost is stunning.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Look Into the Eyes of Oblivion....and Despair.... Aug. 13 2013
By CARLOS ROMERO - Published on
Probably Louis Malle's best work ever! This is a cautionary tale. "Le feu follet" ("The Fire Within") 1963, was based on Pierre Drieu La Rochelle's 1931 novel of the same title. This existentialist work: is basically about humankind's estrangement from itself! Maurice Ronet gives a mesmerizing performance as 'Alain Leroy' - a former 'bon vivant' who is now very much disenchanted with the shallowness of his many 'bourgeois' friends and their phony lives. He is searching and looking for a deeper meaning and purpose to life. After seeking treatment in a clinic (just outside Paris), for his depression and dependence on alcohol (an allusion to our 'moribund' world), he considers getting back together with his wife. But after closer analysis, he realizes that this will never happen. This is a bold and harrowing work, even by today's standards! There are so many layers of meaning to this film, which can easily be misinterpreted for one of: fatalism and hopelessness (this is not really the case). That's the hallmark of a true work of Art! The rest of the cast were all very good, as was the stunning cinematography and editing. Keep an eye out for a very young and beautiful Alexandra Stewart. It's too bad Louis Malle never got the recognition and accolades of his fellow 'nouvelle vague' colleagues. He tried his hand at many different genres, and maybe for that reason, there is a lack of cohesiveness to his overall work. Nonetheless, he created some memorable films: "Ascenseur pour l'echafaud" 1958, "Viva Maria" 1965, "Le voleur" 1967, "Lacombe, Lucien" 1974, etc., etc. Not to be missed by any serious 'cinephile'. One last thing, the great German 'auteur' Volker Schlöndorff, served as assistant director on this film. The Criterion DVD is of course, excellent. NTSC, French (English subtitles), extras, NR, 108 mins. (BTW: I also recommend the highly underrated, similarly riveting and captivating "A Day at the Beach" 1970, where Mark Burns bares it all too!)

Love and Peace,
Carlos Romero
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
One of the best movies of Louis Malle Sept. 3 2009
By Alexandre Hiele - Published on
Verified Purchase
My favorite movie.
A story of a Parisian man who comes back from New York
after leaving his wife,and discovers the emptiness of his life.
Very depressing movie even though, very well filmed
everything happens in the Latin quarter of Paris in the 60's.
Great temoignage of what Paris looked like at the time.
With subtitles