All of a sudden I came across Louis Malle's Le Feu Follet, must have picked it up via twitter. This magnificent film from 1963 was available on Youtube with English subtitles (translated as The fire within). We follow protagonist Alain Leroy on his last day, the film analyzes the thought patterns of a man haunted by the desire to end it all. Alain Leroy played by Maurice Ronet is an unsuccessful writer, an anxious, alcoholic thirty-year-old bourgeois undergoing treatment for alcoholism in a Versailles clinic. Alain decides to get in touch again with his Parisian old friends. How are they getting on with their lives?
Everything in this film is constructed into the perspective of separation and lack. His wife Dorothy lives in New York, lack of pleasure in bed, the film opens with a series of close-up shots of Alain with a friend having an romantic adventure without much enthusiasm. Separation by the repeated mirror reflections, showing fragmented objects and broken spaces. There is also a lack of personal autonomy, where it is said that his wife pays for his treatment at the clinic each month. It all leads us to wonder what can be put in the place of such a overwhelming lack?
In a series of close-ups the camera explores Alain's room at the clinic. The huge mirror with the date of his intended suicide written on it, the books, newspaper cutouts, photographs, paintings and souvenirs, everything is imbued with the oppressive nostalgia of times past. We see him during moments of solitude, how he struggles to deal with his boredom. He looks at the photographs of his wife Dorothy, plays with a silly miniature bowler hat and stacks up cigarette packets until they tumble down. He tries to write something, moves the bisshop on a chessboard and walks around and around. This room filled with memorablia almost functions as a reflection of his internal landscape. We see a man who is incapable to connect and create and who's life slips through his fingers like sand. In a key shot he moves the hand of the ornamental pendule clock forward as if he tries to speed up time, racing towards the inevitable moment when he will pull the trigger of his Luger pistol at the finale of the film.
At that point I simply could not resist to download and steal that specific clock scene from Malle's masterpiece... Hadn't I made a series of etchings and paintings of such an exact same ornamental pendule clock some 25 years ago? Wasn't the idea of limited time left until societal collapse and my personal death so evident during this weird pandemic? To complete the denial of linear time and almost as a gesture of resistance I bought a Stratocaster guitar. It felt as if I landed again in my study years at the Rietveld Academie and my squatted studio in Amsterdam. Alain's lack of contact, empasized by many shots, framing his hands touching and manipulating objects without real purpose, impact or creative zest, diametrically opposed by myself touching the sensitive strings of an electrically amplified guitar. As if time and space mysteriously band together it was precisely July 23 when I could upload my monthly video, titled 23 Juillet... it marks my renewed involvement with the guitar and music making, hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I made it: