FAHRENHEIT 451

Francois Truffaut’s film is that rare thing: an unusual, creepy, well-made, bizarre, overacted but effective thriller based on a classic book that touches all the bases and still leaves you wanting more. The French master’s first (and only) film entirely in English stars Oskar Werner as Montag, a “fireman” in a futuristic version of England, whose job it is to go around searching for books and, upon discovering them, burn them with a flamethrower. His immediate superior is a crusty and cold old man (Cyril Cusack). Soon, Montag meets an intriguing young woman (Julie Christie, voluptuous here) who begins debating him on the merits of reading and of preserving literature in this newly censored world. Montag begins to question society, and that really gets the ball rolling. Truffaut’s film is based on the classic novel by Ray Bradbury, and it depicts with breathtaking and surprising detail the paranoia and fear-mongering in a world where censorship is the government-sanctioned norm (even in the future!). The color cinematography by future director Nicholas Roeg (“Walkabout,” “Don’t Look Now”) is astonishing in its beauty, its bright and gorgeous palette, and in the elegance of its somewhat labyrinthine tracking shots. Ultimately, Truffaut’s film might not be one of his best works, but it is a faithful and rewarding experience well worth seeking out! Note: Similarities between “1984” (book and film) and this are stunning.

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