Le Feu follet (A Time to Live and a Time to Die) (The Fire Within)

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82%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 11

91%

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User Ratings: 1,852
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Movie Info

Maurice Ronet plays an alcoholic writer, Alain Leroy, who is on the verge of suicide (his character is based on writer Jacques Rigaut, who killed himself in 1929). The psychiatrist assigned to Leroy is no help, advising his patient to seek a reconciliation with his wife, who is still smarting from Leroy's recent liaison with Lydia (Lena Skerla). Still obsessed with the notion of taking his own life, Leroy plans to stage his demise on July 23. A last-ditch effort to jolly himself out of his doldrums fails, and Leroy, with a picture of Marilyn Monroe at his side, snuffs himself out. Though a case study of a man victimized by his own isolationism, The Fire Within has some surprising random optimistic moments. The French title for The Fire Within is Le Feu Follet, which was also the title of the novel by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle (another suicide!) from which this film was adapted.

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Critic Reviews for Le Feu follet (A Time to Live and a Time to Die) (The Fire Within)

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (9) | Rotten (2)

Audience Reviews for Le Feu follet (A Time to Live and a Time to Die) (The Fire Within)

  • Dec 02, 2017
    This a brilliant film, one of real substance, but be forewarned - the subject matter is a bit dark, and an air of melancholy pervades it. Maurice Ronet plays a man who we first meet in bed with a lover (Léna Skerla), who knows his wife and works in New York. She drops him back off at a rehab clinic, and we gradually come to understand that he's an alcoholic and his wife has left him. There are some nice moments in the clinic, including a conversation with his doctor (Jean-Paul Moulinot) who believes he is cured and should be released, which Ronet's character actually doesn't want. The film picks up when he makes an excursion to Paris to meet his old friends. Aside from the beautiful street scenes which director Louis Malle captures of Paris, we find out further what this guy was like before his marriage, and why he ended up in a clinic. His friends and acquaintances recount legendary feats of drinking and funny moments such as him once sleeping on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier thinking he was in his own bed. They also comment on his haggard appearance. The former reveler meets one friend who has settled down and finds meaning in researching ancient Egypt, others who paint and take recreational drugs (including Jeanne Moreau), a pair who are planning their next crime, and his old lover who is now involved with an opinionated bore. It's incredibly poignant to see him no longer connected to those he was so close with earlier in his life, and that's a feeling we can identify with without being suicidal. Ronet delivers a strong performance, playing his part with authenticity. I think in this kind of role it's tough to avoid overacting, either in a melodramatic or cloying way, but he pulls it off. The supporting cast is also outstanding. The most touching moment for me came when Ronet asks his friend to simply accept him as he is. Suicide is presented here in part as an outcome of feeling hopeless, but also as a choice - in this case one made against the alternative, transitioning into the phase of settling down into adulthood and middle age, "growing up" if you will. Ronet's character sees no interest in that, and meeting his old friends doesn't change his outlook. He also knows he can't go backwards, and understands that he will inevitably drink again and cause the same sort of destruction in his life. While morose, there is an intellectual aspect to his perspective and the film in general, and because of that, it doesn't end up wallowing in despair, which is a good thing. With that said, I knocked it down slightly simply because of its darkness.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 06, 2014
    Alain Leroy, magnificently played by actor Maurice Ronet, is an alcoholic writer under rehabilitation that contemplates death after life's disappointments. His character is based on the writer Jacques Rigaut, who actually committed suicide in 1929. <i>Le Feu Folloet</i> was Malle's most serious project until then. The film is a visual and thematic masterpiece which combines the visual trademarks of the French New Wave - such as a surprising degree of self-consciousness, references to literature, brief discussions about philosophy and theology, and the indispensable streets of Paris, both under daylight and nighttime, with only the sound of the cars, the pavement humidity of the rain, and the street lights to illuminate the melancholic hidden shadows walking, perhaps with an aim, perhaps aimlessly - with a hearfelt screenplay and the stunning piece of music played during the opening scene of Mario Peixoto's <i>Limite</i> (1931), both exalting the human condition. The result is an impactful hybrid worth of perpetual remembrance. This is potentially one of the most honest cinematic depictions of alcoholism in cinema, and one of the few to directly portray a man facing the hardships of life while they have repercussions on his rehabilitation. Little by little, we are given clues about his past life as he decides to embark on a very personal journey that includes visiting key friendships of his life while existentially (and contradictorily) being under a constant mourn over what he felt lacked in his life. This void is described as a lack of love, as an incapacity to cope with his emotional surroundings, as his failure to execute a transcendent influence in his acquaintances, as a man with a progressive intoxication derived from his own, self-imposed isolation. Resembling a noir and becoming an expertly shot drama, the film is a thought-provoking reflection on the extent to which we allow uncontrollable variables to have a negative impact in our existence given our inability to control all factors and the people involved in them, but it is also an empathetic essay about one of the most self-destructive sicknesses: alcoholism. In order to construct a more authentic essay, however, Leroy's frustration and loneliness is mirrored with various people belonging to different economic strata, all differing in available means, all having mistakes and facing life differently, as if this life was completely out of balance and upside down. This is maybe a pessimistic approach, but it is even more tragic to allow ourselves to be fully submerged into the injustices of the world, and even more when we adopt an existentialist point of view to look through all of it. 98/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Apr 28, 2010
    [font=Century Gothic]Talky and episodic but refreshingly downbeat, "The Fire Within" starts with Alain(Maurice Ronet) staring at Lydia(Lena Skerla) after they have had sex which I am sure has nothing to do with her writing him a check so he can pay off old gambling debts. Alain has been sober for four months and is in a treatment program in Versailles with a wife in New York. He has been in the clinic so long that people are starting to worry about him. Rightfully so, considering that since he has been sober, he has not been able to write anything, becoming obsessed with death and going so far as to contemplate suicide, choosing the following day as the big day, when he also plans to go into Paris to visit old friends.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]As with most addicts, it seems there is more wrong with Alain than simply his substance of choice which he conveniently blames all of his problems on. In the harsh light of day, his life does not look any better than when he was drinking all of the time.[/font]
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • May 18, 2009
    A languid, contemplative film about the profound unhappiness of a suicidal man. Louis Malle's direction and Maurice Ronet's understated performance dissuade the film from ever acquiring the tired cliche of romanticized misery. It's a stark, bleak picture with plenty of empathy for the state of its protagonist, but it doesn't shy away from the ugliness of the subject matter or bask in cinematic manipulation. Crisp, fluid photography and a sparse but beautiful score by Erik Satie are so perfectly condusive to the tone of the character's descent, and by the end the poignancy plays itself out naturally rather than forcing itself upon the audience. An instant favorite of mine. Highly recommended.
    Mike T Super Reviewer

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