(aka "A Time to Live and a Time to Die" or "Fuoco fatuo" or "The Fire Within" or "Will o' the Wisp")

Directed by Louis Malle
France 19
63

After garnering international acclaim for such seminal crowd-pleasers as The Lovers and Zazie dans le métro, Louis Malle gave his fans a shock with The Fire Within (Le feu follet), a penetrating study of individual and social inertia. Maurice Ronet (Elevator to the Gallows), in an implosive, haunted performance, plays Alain Leroy, a self-destructive writer who resolves to kill himself and spends the next twenty-four hours trying to reconnect with a host of wayward friends. Unsparing in its portrait of Alain’s inner turmoil and shot with remarkable clarity, The Fire Within is one of Malle's darkest and most personal films.

***

Arguably the finest of Malle's early films, this is a calmly objective but profoundly compassionate account of the last 24 hours in the life of a suicide. Ronet gives a remarkable, quietly assured performance as the alcoholic who, upon leaving a clinic, visits old friends in the hope that they will provide him with a reason to live. They don't, and Malle's achievement lies not only in his subtle but clear delineation of his protagonist's emotions but in his grasp of life's compromises; his portrait of Parisian society is astringent, never facile.

 Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Releases: October 15th, 1963

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DVD Comparison:

Optimum Releasing - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

(Optimum Releasing - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

  

Distribution Optimum Releasing - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Collection (Spine # 430) - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:43:40 (4% PAL Speedup)  1:48:08
Video 1.66:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.43 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.66:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.45 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate: Optimum

Bitrate: Criterion

Audio French (Dolby Digital Mono) French (Dolby Digital Mono)
Subtitles English (non-removable) English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Optimum Releasing

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios:  1.66 

Edition Details:

• Vincent Malle discusses the film (in English)

DVD Release Date: June 26th, 2006

4 Tiered Digipak inside VHS sized case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios:  1.66 

Edition Details:

• Archival interviews with director Louis Malle (Sept 94' - German TV - 20:37) and actor Maurice Ronet (1966 - 5:58)
•  Malle's Fire Within, a new video program featuring interviews with actor Alexandra Stewart and filmmakers Philippe Collin and Volker Schlöndorff (27:12)
•  Jusqu'au 23 Juillet, a 2005 documentary short about the film and its source novel Le feu follet, by Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, featuring actor Mathieu Amalric, writer Didier Daeninckx, and Cannes festival curator Pierre-Henri Deleau (28:16)
• 22-page liner notes booklet featuring new essays by critic Michel Ciment and film historian Peter Cowie

DVD Release Date: May 13th, 2008

Transparent Keep case
Chapters: 21

Comments:

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC April 08': Firstly, it was a pleasure to revisit this work after a couple of years. I saw things I wasn't fully cognizant of the first time around.

Criterion bring us Malle's morose study of one man victimized by his own isolationism in The Fire Within. Their transfer is impeccable - 1.66 anamorphic, clean, strong (and probably slightly boosted) black levels, and a smidgeon of noise. Compared to the Region 2 Optimum (boxset reviewed in full HERE) it has the perception of being slightly sharper with superior contrast. I don't see any extravagant differences in the framing (the Criterion may be very slightly cropped on the left and top edges). Visually the differences will be quite minor to most. Ditto for audio although I have no quantitative way of separating the two - the Criterion sounded just as clean, clear and flawless as I recall the Optimum to be. Optimum's subtitles are non-removable where on the Criterion they are.

The most radical dividing point between the two editions would be the supplements on the Criterion. Criterion have included two archival interviews; one with director Louis Malle (Sept 94' - German TV - 20:37) and another with actor Maurice Ronet (1966 - 5:58) - both have optional English subtitles (as do most of the extras). Malle's Fire Within, is a new 30 minute video program featuring interviews with actor Alexandra Stewart and filmmakers Philippe Collin and, assistant director of the film, Volker Schlöndorff. Jusqu'au 23 Juillet, is a documentary short (about 30 minutes again) about the film made in 2005. It discusses the source novel Le feu follet, by Pierre Drieu la Rochelle and features actor Mathieu Amalric, writer Didier Daeninckx, and Cannes festival curator Pierre-Henri Deleau. Finally we have a 22-page liner notes booklet featuring new essays by critic Michel Ciment and film historian Peter Cowie.  

Let's be fair, Optimum's Louis Malle Collection - Vol. 1 has excellent value. Competent transfers and 5 films at a reasonable price (actually at 50% more than the lone, but stacked, Criterion, but you get 4 more Malle films!). Typically the Criterion looks better and offers some extensive supplements. Bottom line is that this is an important film and, for English audiences, has been treated decently on DVD on both sides of the pond. 

***

ON THE OPTIMUM: This may be the sharpest DVD transfer of Optimum's The Louis Malle Collection - Vol. 1. Shadow detail and contrast and superb. Again it has been anamorphically transferred in the correct aspect ratio of 1.66. This DVD is dual-layered. Again - subs are non-removable - audio is clear and consistent. Louis's brother, Vincent Malle does some more reminiscing about the film and his brother's opinions and temperament.

This film is fantastic. A detailed exploration of depression and life assessment. I enjoyed it very much.          

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus

 

(Optimum Releasing - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)
 

 
 
 

 

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Screen Captures

 

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(Optimum Releasing - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


(Optimum Releasing - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)
 

 

 


Report Card:

 

Image:

Criterion

Sound:

-

Extras: Criterion
Menu: -

 


DVD Box Cover

  

Distribution Optimum Releasing - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Collection (Spine # 430) - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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