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The Fire Within (Criterion Collection)

Maurice Ronet , Léna Skerla , Louis Malle    Unrated   DVD

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Criterion Spine number 430

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Indelible Stain Aug. 23 2010
By Urbun Scrawler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Business of Living Aug. 28 2000
By patrice - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
How is it that this video has slipped out of print? I agree with much of what the other reviewers have written but think they dismiss the Ronet character's position a tad too lightly. Ronet is undoubtedly an aging dilettante who refuses to grow up, to make a meaningful connection with the "real world". But he is also a very lucid witness to the self delusions and shattering compromises his friends make to stay in the world. After all when he visits his friends to say goodbye and to look for a reason to live he is confronted by one friend burying himself in family life and arcane studies, another is taking drugs, another is a terrorist...none are really viable options to a guy who for whatever reasons has his eyes too wide open. That is what is so chilling about the movie, Ronet has woken from the dream of life to a quiet lucidity that is simply unbearable. Reading "Malle on Malle" and his take on the film, one learns that Malle has a far more ambigious view of the suicide than most of the critics one finds here. He doesn't romanticize the suicide, but he does brutally examine how one can run out of ground to stand on until suicide may be the only method of retaining a dollop of dignity. And yes the Satie music here is perfect.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Le Feu Follet" July 18 2010
By R. Howe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Devastating drama --a cry of despair June 12 1999
By George Fabian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
31/2 stars. The Fire Within follows the last days and hours of a bon vivant who has just been cured of alcoholism. Yet he does not want to leave the sanitarium as he is afraid of himself and of life.He decides to spend the short time he has left visiting old friends one of whom might give him a reason for not taking his own life. The Fire Within moves grimly towards its predestined, shattering climax. Malle uses the melancholy piano music of Erik Satie to great effect. Not recommended to aficionados of Pollyanna.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece July 13 2008
By Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
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.

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