Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fahrenheit 451--The Movie

Ray Bradbury has been a favorite author since the early seventies and I usually name his 1953 book FAHRENHEIT 451 as my all-time favorite novel when pressed to make a choice.

In 1966, it was made into a most unusual film by French director Francois Truffaut (later an actor in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND).
It starred Austrian actor and former German soldier (although he was anti-Nazi) Oskar Werner along with that year's British sensation Julie Christie, fresh off her Oscar-winning performance in DARLING and the mega-box office success of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO.

Although shot in English, the film has a decided alien feel to it. In retrospect, that, along with its obvious similarities to the trendier European fare of the day, are part of its charm. At the time, however, they probably didn't help it at the box office.

Set in the future, its only concession to that is to use futuristic looking locations rather than special effects. The plot, as in Bradbury's classic book, deals with a time in an unspecified not too distant year when books are outlawed and fireman are used not to put out fires but to burn books. This the title--the temperature at which paper burns. Werner gives a quirky but winning performance as the fireman who actually stops to read one and finds himself suddenly...thinking. Some absolutely lovely photography, particularly toward the end in snow scenes crowns this marvelous, unusual film.

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