WEDNESDAY

What if what you are doing right now—reading this newspaper—were forbidden? What if books were contraband—”anti-social elements”—and their possession were a crime punishable by imprisonment or even death? This is, of course, the terrible thesis of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the story of Guy Montag, a fireman who incinerates books to keep people from reading and, by extension, from thinking or feeling. For his 1966 adaptation of Bradbury’s novel, director Francois Truffaut decided that rather than run normal credits, he would announce his cast (led by the remote Oskar Werner as Montag) and crew in voice-over. Unnerving in its implication (in this future dystopia, no one—you included, dear viewer—reads), it is one of the film’s many highlights. Impressive, too, are Bernard Herrmann’s score (as complex as his music for Vertigo) and the film’s leads: Somehow, Werner and Julie Christie (doing double-duty as Montag’s near-comatose wife, Linda, and the luminous schoolteacher Clarisse) actually manage to make the novel’s underdeveloped love story believable. Indeed, Truffaut’s only misstep occurs during his film’s climax. Whereas Bradbury’s novel ends with one of the greatest chases ever conceived—Montag pursued by an seemingly unstoppable mechanical hound—Truffaut’s film merely sputters out; the hound, disastrously, is missing. The rest of Fahrenheit 451, Truffaut’s first film in color and in English, works so well—even the sappy, hopeful ending for Clarisse and Montag, a revision of Bradbury’s more pessimistic finale—it’s a shame the novel’s most terrifying creation didn’t make the cut. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, at the Embassy of France’s La Maison Francaise, 4101 Reservoir Road NW. $5. (202) 944-6091. (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)

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