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After hitting it so big with the Harry Potter fantasy books, it's perhaps understandable that author J.K. Rowling would find her previous success to throw a weighty shadow over whatever she would do next. Therefore, as her second post-Potter novel, "The Cuckoo's Calling," came out in 2013, she published it under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, perhaps as a means for an unbiased reception for a crime novel despite already having made a good commercial showing with "The Casual Vacancy" the year prior. Cormoran Strike is a down-on-his-luck private investigator, having just lost his on-and-off girlfriend, leaving him in essence homeless and with no high-paying clients to speak of. Not only that, but he also tries to keep it a secret that he is wearing a clumsy prosthetic leg after a bomb ripped the previous one off in Afghanistan, a fact that causes him an annoying amount of trouble.
When he is sent a new temp secretary in the form of Robin Ellacott to replace a previous one who had left, the two strike up an uneasy partnership - the former not really wanting another secretary he knows he can't pay, but appreciating the woman's discreet nature, while the latter is fascinated by the romantic ideals of detective work despite her employer being an odd sort who seems to spend a suspicious amount of time at the office. But when he lands a surprising high profile case to investigate the death of a famous model due to a faint familial connection, he gets thrown into an investigation that not only can help him get out of the swamp he is in, but give him his own sense of worthiness back.
As far as murder mysteries go, "The Cuckoo's Calling" is not a bad book and features a slick style of storytelling, with characters at least a bit more interesting than in your typical noir. However, it takes an inordinately long period of time before the story truly starts to gain momentum and all the disparate elements of the mystery start to come together. Cormoran as a moody and depressed war veteran with a disability he tries to hide and a less than ideal life situation is a sober character that remains a bit aloof at times, but is interesting enough as the main protagonist.
Robin, however, despite the early setting, quickly descends more into the role of a bit player who answers the phone and does internet searches, but is only active for a relatively small part of the book. The suspects, as well as related plot threads, are numerous and somewhat convoluted, but Rowling does pull everything together well in the end to the point that I couldn't tell the murderer before the revelation. Still, the fact that the novel is just too slow to begin, only coming alive toward the last third, makes this more an average read than anything else. Not bad, but not likely something you'll remember for too long afterwards. (c) berlioz II
Kenji is a math genius and part-time moderator on the large virtual reality networking site OZ. One day, as he is visiting the family of school friend Natsuki (who wants him to pretend he is her fiancé), he receives a math problem in his e-mail, the solving of which unbeknownst to him allows a malicious AI called Love Machine to gain access to OZ and start causing massive damage under Kenji's username. The rampant program then begins to surge out and effect electrical devices and other facets of Japan's internal grid connected to the virtual world, forcing Kenji and Natsuki's family to begin a war against the AI within OZ in order to save the country from destruction. Though one could easily suspect that a film about fighting a computer program inside virtual reality would not make for particularly exciting subject matter (unless you were a tech-nerd), "Summer Wars" (2009) actually manages to be massively engaging and thrilling as the stakes ratchet up the further the fight goes on.
One big help is the large cast of characters, both large and small, who make the ordeal so much more personal, particularly as it is revealed that Natsuki's half-granduncle is the one that developed the program for the U.S. military, thus making it a matter of honour for the family descended from ancient samurais. And while one can suspect that this is the kind of film that will also likely date rather badly in the future, the movie is offset by its quality animation, entertaining characters, and a generally engrossing spirit of human connection (a lot of the battle stakes peoples' virtual accounts as playing chips) that should help it survive as an enjoyable film even past today's technological advances. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, previously known for his sci-fi/fantasy "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time." (c) berlioz 2014
After almost ending up in a fatal accident on her way home, high school girl Makoto Kanno discovers she can jump backwards in time following an accidental fall on top of a strange walnut-shaped object during school's cleaning duty. Initially using her newly discovered abilities for frivolous reasons, she quickly ends up noticing that even small changes in the past may have far reaching consequences for others in the future. However, there's more to her "time-leaps" than she initially thinks, and her best friend, Chiaki Mamiya, toward whom she starts to have feelings for, is right in the middle of it all. A wonderfully produced and animated slice-of-life comedy-drama, complete with believable and likeable characters, "Toki wo Kakeru Shojo" ("The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, 2006) is a very enjoyable movie with an intriguing story and plenty of humour.
And while the stakes ultimately aren't world-shattering, this adaptation of the novel of Yasutaka Tsutsui is both funny and emotional, being just simple enough to follow without lacking complexity. The star of the production is certainly Makoto (voiced by Riisa Nakai), who is both tomboyishand clumsy, but not veering too much in the realms of comic relief so as to remain highly relatable no matter who you are. Also the romance subplot that develops along the way is pulled off without the typical cheese these sorts of things normally end up saturated with, bordering on just on the side of believable, which makes the rather sentimentally touching twist at the end, when the ultimate truth behind Makoto's time travelling abilities is revealed along with its consequences on her relationship, work so magnificently well. Perfect entertainment for young and old alike. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, with this film becoming his first international success. (c) berlioz 2014
One of the more fascinating anime series of the 1990s, "Serial Experiments Lain" (1998) deals with a young girl named Lain, who discovers that the popular virtual reality-world of "Wired" has surprising hidden depths to it when a girl she knew from school contacts her from within the network following her suicide, claiming to have severed her ties to the physical realm in favour of a fully cybernetic existence. This leads Lain to start delving deeper into Wired herself, subtly pushed forward by the system's creators (one his perceived father, the other a man who has transferred his entire consciousness to Wired), getting more and more connected to it and ending up discovering both inherent secrets from within, as well as mind-altering realities about her own purpose in life.
Proposing ideas that the only way for humans to develop further is to abandon restrictions between the physical world and that of the immaterial, thus resulting in more fluid forms of communication between humans, the series goes on to explore a range of topics from loneliness (the lack of communication) and mental illness (particularly dissociative identity disorder), to reality (not only limited to the difference between physical and virtual), communication (namely that of transferring human feelings with greater freedom), and even theology (the idea that there can exist an infinite spirit within a finite body). All of this translates to an admittedly complex and cerebral anime, but one that is endlessly fascinating and intelligently laid out with philosophical and existential concepts of great depth. Add to it a further sinister mystery angle for extra spice and you get something that may not be for those more interested in simple action or romance, or who have difficulty in wrapping their heads around the more complex philosophical and psychological concepts, but anyone wanting a bit more substance to their entertainment will likely be enthralled. (c) berlioz 2014
Goro Miyazaki's second film, "Kokuriko-zaka Kara" ("From Up On Poppy Hill," 2011), is less ambitious than his nearly disastrous "Tales from Earthsea" was but, in its presentation of a fairly simple girl meets boy story, ends up ironically stumbling over a needlessly complicated plot that is harder to wrap your head around than anything in Chris Nolan's "Inception." In early 1960s Yokohama, schoolgirl Umi Matsuzaki (Masami Nagasawa) has a habit of lifting signal flags every morning to bid a safe passage to passing ships following the death of her father in the Korean War. Shun Kazama (Jun'ichi Okada), a boy living down at the harbour, on the other hand, is engaged in a campaign to preserve the old, historic club house on their high school grounds from demolition when the school board wants to construct a new building to coincide with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. After spotting a poem published in the school paper about herself, Umi seeks out Shun, who wrote it after seeing the flags on the hill during his part-time work on a fishing boat, and ends up getting involved in the activity herself, which quickly draws the entire student body to chip in on fixing up the place with their own sweat and hard work. At the same time Umi and Shun find themselves developing feelings for one another, but the possibility that they might actually be siblings separated by the war throws a wrench into their budding relationship.
Charming, if inconsequential, this is a movie that sits on the sidelines of typical sentimental high school drama, but feels the need to obfuscate the point with a muddled familial story to complicate the love life of its two protagonists to an almost unnecessary level. The end result, on the wayside, then really just ends up being a rather forgettable piece of slice-of-life romance that simply lacks the vibrancy of a "Whisper of the Heart" to carry it further than that, while at the same time making you confused when trying to keep the subplot somehow straightened out. The animation is good, if not striking, though the old club house is certainly an atmospheric place, and the sentiments of preserving the past gives the movie a more nostalgic quality it otherwise lacks. Still, amongst all the school songs and puffing of proud chests, this is a film that ranks just on the side of too agreeable and not memorable enough to be noted as anything else than squarely middle-tier Ghibli at best. (c) berlioz 2014
Based on the fantasy book series of Ursula Le Guin, "Gedo Senki" ("Tales from Earthsea," 2006) was a difficult prospect from the beginning, and unfortunately never lived up to its promise. The debut direction of Hayao Miyazaki's son Goro - whose involvement in the production Hayao was originally very much against - does a decent enough job, but it is easy to see why the typically reticent author was once more disappointed with an adaptation of her "Earthsea" novels. Mixing together material mostly from "The Farthest Shore" and "Tehanu," the movie follows Prince Arren (Jun'ichi Okada) as he is on the run after murdering his father, and when he's later saved by the nomadic Archmage Sparrowhawk (Bunta Sugawara) from being eaten by a pack of wolves, the two become travelling companions. Later in their travels, they meet a young girl named Therru (Aoi Teshima), accosted by a group of slavers working for a Lord Cob, and which leads Arren to begin investigating what is disturbing the world's balance inside the whole of Earthsea, while on another side Therru begins developing feelings towards him. All this trouble then points toward the mysterious wizard Cob who hungers for eternal life and is willing to do anything to achieve his goal - even at the cost of Earthsea itself.
While there's certainly plenty of action, the biggest problem of the movie is that it has nothing really that unique to do with "Earthsea" about it, coming across more like a fairly average fantasy film with a whole bunch of typical genre clichés peppering it throughout. Also the film's story being a patchwork of a number of concepts and ideas from all the books, ultimately just leads into a jumbled mess of half-explained plot ideas, characters, and place names you are practically expected to know beforehand from the novels themselves instead of the film explaining things for you. Likewise, the movie removes some of the more unique or shocking material of the books (for instance the girl Therru's horrible scarring in fire has been reduced to a barely visible pink splotch on her face, while racial differences between characters are all but nonexistent), and even goes so far as to add a generic comic relief character in typical Ghibli style to make it all more family friendly. The overall result is a pretty looking, but ultimately forgettable movie that could have been called anything else than "Tales from Earthsea" without it making that much of a difference. Definitely at the bottom end of the studio's output and only saved from a lower rating thanks to how inherently inoffensive it is. (c) berlioz 2014
Written by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, on the basis of the children's book "The Borrowers" by Mary Norton, "Kari-gurashi no Arietti" ("The Secret World of Arrietty," 2010) is the tale of Arrietty (Mirai Shida), a tiny girl called a "borrower," living in the foundations of a house in the countryside with her parents. One night, her father allows her to come along for her first borrowing expedition (essentially taking something invaluable and replacing it with another item as a fair trade), only to attract the attention of Sho (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a young boy come to the house to await a pending heart operation that will determine if he'll live or die. Though warned by her parents not to go near humans, Arrietty disobeys and soon comes to trust Sho; however, nosy housekeeper Haru (Kirin Kiki) begins to suspect something is off in the house and becomes dead set on capturing one of these "little thieves" she believes are hiding in the residence.
Infinitely charming, if perhaps only slightly constricted over its setting (one wishes even more would have been made of the dangers of predators posed to people so small), this is still a very enjoyable movie nevertheless, with an appealing lead character, a beautifully realised double world where everyday objects become something new when perceived through the eyes of people the size of a finger, and some nice details on the logistics of having to work around the larger scale. This is wonderful family entertainment with excellent pacing and even a bit of thrilling action, making this definitely one of the better of the studio's films post-"Spirited Away." Typically fantastic animation and a good overall story flow from first time director Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Also available in both American and British English dubs. (c) berlioz 2014
In July 1812, composer Ludwig van Beethoven wrote two ardent love letters addressed only to "My Immortal Beloved." The identity of the woman in question remains a mystery to this day, though there has been plenty of conjecture trying to answer who inspired such words from the maestro. "Immortal Beloved" (1994), directed by Bernard Rose, is one such piece of speculation. Taking place immediately after Beethoven's death, his secretary and confidante Anton Schindler meets the various women in Beethoven's life to figure out to whom the letters are addressed to and who should be the recipient of the composer's inheritance, while at the same time we get a superficial cross-section of the composer's life and achievements in a film that may not offer a conclusive answer to its own question, but is still a very well made biopic on Beethoven. Gary Oldman is phenomenal as good ol' Ludwig Van, showing once more his significant transformative abilities in practically becoming the great man, while Jeroen Krabbé as Schindler acts as a fine, sober investigator to carry the search forward. The general mise-en-scène (largely courtesy of cinematographer Peter Suschitzky) is absolutely gorgeous to behold, while the movie is interspersed with many a fine scene, many of them connected with the sublime music of Beethoven, whose works create a wonderful anchor to his life and times.
The blend between showcasing the headstrong and fierce nature of Beethoven with his suffering, both self-imposed (his need to dominate others) as well as external (his increasing deafness), is wonderfully highlighted through several vignettes of the composer's life - such as his dogged desire to become the guardian of his nephew Karl that led to lengthy courtroom battles in the 1810s against the boy's mother - that in many ways actually end up somewhat upstaging the central (largely fictional) mystery the film revolves around. Certainly, the movie's not really "Amadeus" in quality, but is definitely a very accomplished film in its own right, with the unforgettable images of the composer resting his ear on the piano as he plays the Moonlight Sonata, or the flashback to his childhood of him floating on a lake at night, gazing at the unending starfields above him, as the Ode to Joy swells in crescendo, make this one of the more successful films of its type. Certainly if you want complete historical accuracy, this movie will likely not satisfy, but as a cinematic representation of the man's life, it is excellent. (c) berlioz 2014
This rather mixed modern retelling of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," Richard Donner's "Scrooged" (1988) sees Bill Murray as cynical and exploitative TV executive Frank Cross who gets visited by three ghosts during Christmas, and who put him on a path to salvage his personal life, as well as his relationship with ex-girlfriend Claire Phillips (Karen Allen). Playing out very much like a black comedy, the movie tends to veer around from satirical and humorous, to nasty and mean-spirited. Murray, in the central role, is himself a mixed bag, seeming half-drunk or on some severe medication for most of the movie, and decidedly unwilling to be on set for the rest, while the ghosts range from a chainsmoking cabbie (David Johansen), an annoying fairy (Carol Kane) who constantly beats the crap out of Frank like in a demented slapstick routine, and an unspeaking grim reaper with some kind of a freakily funky party going on under his cloak.
Allen is decidedly nice, but unremarkable, while a disgruntled employee (Bobcat Goldthwait), who gets fired and is driven steadily insane over the course of the film, makes for a funny, but confused maniac who has seemingly just rolled out of bed every scene he is in - but then again, this is Bobcat Goldthwait, so what'd you expect? Still the movie has its moments and as a darker version of the Dickens story makes for a different adaptation from the norm... even if the final group song and connected sentimental bullshit (like a mute boy suddenly finding his voice again) is so cheesy it hurts. In a way, I suppose the film is supposed to be lighthearted and heartwarming in the end, but is so off-kilter most of the time that it somehow just turns into an uncomfortable combination of sadistic happiness. However, the Christmas programming suggestions in the beginning of the movie, including Lee Majors dressed as Santa fighting terrorists, is insanely fun. (c) berlioz 2014
Filmed shortly after the expulsion of the Nazis from Italy in 1945, Roberto Rossellini's "Roma, Città Aperta" ("Rome, Open City") is an early neo-realist classic following the life of resistance fighters as they struggle against the rule of their unwelcomed occupiers. Beginning life as the subject matter for two documentaries, one about a priest executed by the Germans following his capture as an agent of the resistance, and the other detailing the life of Roman children fighting against the Germans, the two ideas were then combined for a feature film on the suggestion of Federico Fellini and Sergio Amidei, who also wrote the screenplay. Starring mostly non-professional actors, though some of the lead roles were taken by established stars like Aldo Fabrizi and Anna Magnani, the film was made with little money and under difficult circumstances, hence the movie looking quite crude and having an almost documentary-like feel to it. But in many ways this is what gives it that extra feeling of authenticity, making this of greater interest than glossier, big-budget war movies could ever hope to achieve. All costumes, such as Nazi uniforms, are no reproductions and the war torn city is absolutely real, the knowledge of which only makes the film seem all the more gripping. And while for today's audiences the film may have more punch in regards to the circumstances of its making than necessarily its story, this is still an important film that helped boost the Italian film industry back to its feet after the war. The death scene of Magnani's Pina, in particular, has become an iconic image of neo-realism. (c) berlioz 2014
Quentin Tarantino's tribute to the spaghetti Western (right down to the naming of his main character), "Django Unchained" (2012) is more ripping apart America's past in the slave trade than a simple shoot-'em-up adventure. Django (Jamie Foxx) is bought from slavery by former-dentist-turned-bounty-hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and is then subsequently given freedom. However, Django has plans of his own in wanting to be reunited with his wife Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington), so he takes up bounty hunting with Schultz on his way to discovering where she was sold off to. The trail eventually leads to sadistic slave baron Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who stages brutal death fights with his slaves, leading the twosome to enter the lion's den pretending to be buyers interested in purchasing fighters… plus a little extra something for the way home. Unusually socio-critical for a Tarantino film, this mix of almost cartoony-levels of violence (one gun fight paints an entire room literally red with blood) and an unadorned look at the slave trade during this time makes for a punchy, yet still entertaining Western.
Certainly the comic excesses of some of the violence can be a little overly silly and more sensitive watchers may flinch at the casual usage of the pejorative word "nigger" (which rightfully is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable), but Tarantino's love for his own flowing dialogue is still everywhere to be seen (he was awarded an Oscar for it) and the acting performances are very good (particularly from DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson as Candie's turn-coat house slave Stephen). It is a film that will leave some with mixed feelings for sure - perhaps even some of Tarantino's fans - but it holds together quite well, with the director's typical cult movie references better integrated than in some of his other post-"Kill Bill" flicks (the film being more Sergio Corbucci than Sergio Leone in that regard). It's not perfect, but it is definitely better than the director's last couple of movies in many regards. Original Django, Franco Nero, makes a small cameo in a bar scene at Candie's digs. (c) berlioz 2014
Born out of hatred, raised as a vessel of vengeance, and never stopping until her mission is complete, "Lady Snowblood" ("Shurayukihime," 1973) is one of the greatest cult classic revenge movies ever made. Told in non-chronological order, the film stars Meiko Kaji as Yuki (Japanese for "snow"), who was conceived and given birth to in prison by a woman who's husband was murdered by four individuals profiteering from a rebellion they instigated. The mother (Miyoko Akaza) had already killed one of them - the reason she's in jail - but in order to seek retribution for the rest, she plans to have her unborn child become the instrument of her revenge so that, upon her death following the difficult birth, her "spirit" of vengeance could travel to the child and use Yuki as the executor of her dying wish. Constructed of four acts detailing Yuki hunting down and dispatching each of the remaining perpetrators - Okono Kitahama (Sanae Nakahara), Banzo Takemura (Noboru Nakaya), and Gishiro Tsukamoto (Eiji Okada) - while also meeting both allies and foes on her trip, such as Banzo's kindly daughter Kobue (Yoshiko Nakada), ruthless gang leader Matsuemon (Hitoshi Takagi), and reporter Ryûrei Ashio (Toshio Kurosawa) interested in telling her story, what comes out of this is a stylish, over-the-top bloody, and very straight-to-the-point Japanese samurai flick.
Well acted (particularly by Kaji, who is at both times driven and vulnerable in her pursuit of the only reason she exists), well paced with editing by Osamu Inoue, and well shot by Masaki Tamura, combined with splendid music by Masaaki Hirao (complete with the beautiful title song "The Flower of Carnage"), there's certainly plenty to recommend here for fans of cult cinema, though other may find it a bit sillier than they've used to. Also for the modern viewer, this film will undoubtedly remind you at several places of Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" movies, for which "Lady Snowblood" was one of the primary inspirations for, not only in plot, but also the film's overall structure and even replicating several scenes verbatim, though "Snowblood" obviously is much more authentic to Tarantino's stylistic pastiche. Followed the next year by the sequel "Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance," in spite of the original's rather final conclusion. Subtitled in English as "Blizzard from the Netherworld," and based on the manga of Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura. (c) berlioz 2014
Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet with cartoonist Marc Caro, "Delicatessen" (1991) is a fantastical post-apocalyptic black comedy, starring Dominique Pinon as former circus clown Louison answering an ad searching for a maintenance man for a rundown apartment building owned by the resident butcher Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus). However, what Louison doesn't know is that the vacancy isn't meant to be a long one as the butcher runs a little side business in which the temps tend to eventually end up under his cleaver and then sold off to the building's paying residents in a world suffering from serious meat shortages. However, what the butcher doesn't take into account is that his badly nearsighted daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac) takes a special liking to Louison's honest and naïve character, which leads her to begin plotting ways to save him from the eventual grizzly fate awaiting him. Visually delicious and highly imaginative, this nigh on Terry Gilliam-esque little film is full of quirky characters, strange comedic offshoots, and a highly unique point-of-view that makes it a film hard to forget.
However, as is often the case with films of this type, once the initial freshness has worn off, the film can become somewhat overbearing with its own sense of quirkiness. Particularly when an underground group of sewer dwellers called "troglodistes" are involved in the plot, the final part of the movie descends into an almost chaotic mess of chases, fights, and essentially turns into an excuse to tear the sets apart with indiscriminate mayhem. Still, for fans of oddball movies of this type, this is still certainly well-worth seeing, though people less inclined for weird cinema might just be disgusted by the subject matter or left baffled by it all. The wonderful production design by Caro and cinematography by Darius Khondji are very much stars in their own rights in this production, while Dreyfus as the butcher Clapet, Chick Ortega as a brutish postman, Karin Viard as the vampish Mademoiselle Plusse, and Anne-Marie Pisani as the suicidal (though always failing at it) Madame Tapioca stand out in particular from the cast. (c) berlioz 2014
Based on the book by Cornell Woolrich, "La Mariee Etait en Noir" ("The Bride Wore Black," 1968) is a revenge film starring Jeanne Moreau as vengeful bride Julie Kohler out to kill five men, who were part of accidentally killing her husband on their wedding day while playing around with a rifle. The film unfolds as a nicely Hitchcockian suspense story that holds its interest fairly well despite a few moments where the storytelling tends to get a bit more plodding. Admittedly the movie somewhat looses its grip when it gets to its fourth victim, the womanising artist Fergus (played by Charles Denner), which misses out on some of the escalation of situations inherent in the previous three marks Moreau's vengeful bride goes through, but the final twist in her plan at the end of the film is rather clever. However, the scenes involving lonely bachelor Coral (Michel Bouquet) getting a surprise date to brighten up his miserable life, and politician Morane (Michel Lonsdale) getting a visit from the "teacher" of his young son, both stand out in their well-delivered suspense and particularly sadistic outcomes by our coldly methodical bride.
Savaged by French critics upon release and considered a significant disappointment by director Francois Truffaut himself, it's not quite as bad as all that, and Moreau is quite good as the central character. Still, there certainly are moments that drag a bit and the morbid tone can be a little too pervasive for some to derive all that much enjoyment out of it, but this is still a largely worthwhile film to see regardless. Fine colour cinematography by Raoul Coutard, who had several of disagreements with Truffaut throughout the production, and music is suitably by Alfred Hitchcock's former go-to-composer Bernard Herrmann, their second and last collaboration as they just couldn't see eye-to-eye on anything in the movie. Incidentally, Hitchcock himself saw the film and said he liked it despite also voicing criticism over some inherently contrived leaps-of-faith. (c) berlioz 2014
Set in a dystopian future, "Fahrenheit 451" (1966) is the story of a society where books have become illegal as the emotions and ideas they instil can cause unwelcome anti-social turmoil that can become a danger to the establishment's desire to control its citizens. For this reason, the fire department has been reverted as an outfit to sniff out hidden libraries and then burning up their contents. Conformist fireman Guy Montag (Oskar Werner), however, ends up secretly snatching up one of the books he's supposed to destroy and, upon reading it, is instilled with a newfound sense of life and imagination he never knew existed before. Becoming obsessed with collecting whatever books he can, he now risks becoming an outlaw with his beliefs that books are actually important, the feelings they instil sparking a sense of life in him so dogmatically repressed by society, and that destroying them is the true act of evil purported by a totalitarian government bent on controlling its citizens through de-sensitized conditioning.
Based on the original novel of Ray Bradbury, this first (and only) English-language film of Francois Truffaut is perhaps somewhat overly cold in its demeanour and its central subject loses a bit of its punch due to the current state of book appreciation, but despite this the film's basic story of a government robbing people of their own right to free thought and expression is still a reasonably effective one. The performances from Oskar Werner and Julie Christie (playing a double role as a book disciple and Montag's frosty wife) are similarly muted, harnessed more to the film's subject matter than specific characterisation, further making this movie more of intellectual interest than emotional (ironically), but as such the film works as an interesting exercise in speculative science fiction. Intriguing, despite somewhat failing to instil the passion in its central conceit to root for the heroes' fight against their inhuman government or properly engaging the viewer with the characters' themselves. Features good set design by Syd Cain and a chilling music score by Bernard Herrmann, though. (c) berlioz 2014