Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Fahrenheit 451" on Low Burner

Cleveland Press January 20, 1967

"Fahrenheit 451" is a story about some future society in which it is a own books and book-burning is the chief job of firemen.

As an idea it offers much but in execution makes only partial delivery.

France's Francois Truffaut has directed and co-written this, his first English-language and color movie, from Ray Bradbury's frighteningly imaginative novel.

THE IDEA OF BOOK BURNING should fill us with outrage, but Truffaut's handling of the subject seems too detached for any feeling of personal involvement.

Oskar Werner is the fireman who begins to doubt, who hides first one volume and then more to find what there is between their covers that attracts men at such great risk.

Julie Christie appears in a dual role -- as his wife and as a book-reading girl whom he meets casually. As the wife, her hair is long and brown. As the girl, it is short and blond. There is nothing else in Miss Christie's acting to distinguish the characters.

TRUFFAUT'S LOW-KEY DIRECTION contributes to the genuineness of setting, but his emotionless dialog and bloodless characters dilute all impact.

In a society dominated by wall size TV screens, comic pages without dialog and pill-induced emotions, the conflict between husband and wife seems to be little more than an irritability of a man whose spouse stays up too late watching television when he wants to read.

The director's first use of color is excellent. This does more to evoke mood than the script. The bleakness of the society is in sharp contrast to the billowing, dirty orange flames, the bright red of the fire trucks, the unrelieved blacks of the uniforms.

MAN'S REFUGE, on the other hand, where each man has memorized a book, is in a pastel colored countryside where there is nothing bright or harsh and which eventually is overlaid with purity of white snow.

Whatever anger and horror is evoked by the events in this movie are by the thought of the events themselves -- the book-burning, the regimentation, the anonymous betrayal by friends and relatives. It does not come from the handling of the events.

If Truffaut had been a little less academic and cool his film might have generated more heat.