Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cinematheque and Fahrenheit 451

Last week (or last post) I talked about my very first theatre-going experience, going to the Sydney Theatre Company's 'Stockholm'. Now I have another first time experience to share, which made me realise how much of a cultural/arts virgin I am.

I went to my first cinematheque screening at the Chauvel Cinema in Paddington, which I think exceeds any other cinema in Sydney (cough*hoyts*cough) in terms of their awesome-ness, taste in film, kindness of staff and cinema atmosphere. I want to live there. I'd love to camp out in the projection room, surrounded by canisters of film and fall asleep to the gentle whizzing sound of the reel whilst being comforted by the faint dialogue of (insert title of a cult/foreign/arthouse/indie film here).

I was overly excited and dying of anticipation during the short wait outside the cinema. I nearly puked when the doors were finally opened and my hands were shaking as I handed my ticket to the gate staff. This was my cinematic devirgination. My long-awaited exposure to the works of god-directors including Kurosawa, De Sica and the aptly named Jean-Luc (God)ard. The times of queuing for mindless blockbusters and lifeless comedies were over, that night I queued for a cinematheque.

I was finally baptised.

Fahrenheit 451 (UK) (1966)
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie
Plot summary here

My excitement for my first cinematheque was overwhelming, but this film, I'm sorry to say, was a bit underwhelming. I've read the book and never really understood why it was a classic, sure it's an interesting premise - firemen setting fire on books instead of putting them out, the realisation of a grossly sanitised society. But I've always thought that I missed something because most of the chapters bored me out of my mind. I thought this adaptation would ignite my interest, unfortunately though, it was just as dull. I blame it on the characterisation of the protagonist, Ray Montag. What a boring, boring man. I hated him in the books and I detested him on the film. I never really felt his passion towards the books he was desperately saving, I felt my own passion for the books and was deeply saddened by montages (superbly done by Truffaut) of classic books being burned to ashes. But not once did HIS passion resonate from the screen, not even during that pivotal scene of him reading a book to his conformist wife and her friends.

On the other hand, the film was nicely paced and was fairly faithful to the book, but I still can't decide whether that's a good or a bad thing. A part of me wants the exact story from the novel translated on screen but another part of me wanted Truffaut to take a chance and change some bits and create something new, while still retaining the essence of the book.

A fairly clean and safe film and worth the watch if you're a fan of the book, or fans of books in general. A bit of advice: Read the book first.

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