Friday, June 18, 2010
When we opened this film at the Baxter, I remember the stunning silences that accompanied the credits. Every so often, an art film comes through that leaves our octogenarian base puzzling over what the film was about (as well as wondering where they left their car keys). Needless to say, Michael Hancke's masterwork in repressed memories and emotions excels in ambiguity. Hancke's camerawork and the absence of music in most scenes to add a voyeuristic touch, as if the viewer is a third invisible party to the game that is being played with the target Georges Laurent, as he's plagued with VHS tapes that docuemnt his home and activities and grisly crayon drawings. Furthermore, I would go as far as to say that it's one of the best psychological thrillers I've seen in some time, for as you've probably already surmised, Hancke doesn't sacrifice the atmosphere he's generated by taking on a "clear-cut, Hollywood ending."
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One of Bradbury's most renowned books received a decent screen adaptation thanks to the expertise of Francois Truffaut. For those unfamiliar with the plot, the story is set in a dystopian future where the printed word is outlawed. Guy Montag, the main protagonist, is a professional bookburner - an avocation generated by an amalgamation of Cold War fears as well as references to the Third Reich it seems. Montag decides to indulge in reading when he acquires a text during a routine burning and soon he finds his mindset shifting as the power of reading influences his mind. The story's a solid one and Truffaut's visual sense creates a bleak but visually distinct look for the future (akin to the world created in "A Clockwork Orange"). The film's main drawback is the performance by Oskar Werner as Guy Montag, a role that he woefully underplays. I'm aware that in this fictitious future that he is a mere cog, regulated by perscriptions, and a muting of emotions is to be expected, but Werner is damn near comatose for most of the film (a surprising outcome since he'd collaborated with Truffaut before). At least his performance does not detract from the story's uplifting message.
Watch the Trailer