On Le Feu Follet

Le Feu Follet is another movie directed by Louis Malle, from 1963. It’s an interesting time-capsule of a film: America is referred to as “Kennedy land”, and newspaper clippings of Marilyn Monroe are taped up all over the room of the main character. Alain Leroy, an alcoholic is “taking the cure” at a rehab center in Versailles – actually, the cure has taken and he hasn’t had a drink in three months. His doctor strongly hints that it’s time to move on. The trouble is that Leroy’s wife is now living in New York and isn’t convinced that Leroy won’t start drinking again. Leroy himself is convinced he will if he leaves the hospital, and in this stand-off with himself he has spiralled into a depression that he can’t pull himself out of. One strength of this movie is Malle’s mostly realistic portrayal of a kind of relentless indolence that accompanies clinical depression, and indeed the grim determination that accompanies suicide. On the other hand, all those Marilyn Monroe clippings (like the music of Brahms in Les Amants) struck me as much too obvious. If we’re supposed to notice these signs, shouldn’t we expect that the doctor would, too?

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