On the face of it, it's hard to imagine two artists with less in common than Jean Cocteau and Georges Franju, but Cocteau himself chose Franju to film his early novel. Cocteau's Thomas is a magically charming innocent who poses as the nephew of a general in order to serve in a civil (aristocratic!) ambulance corps during World War I; the war is the circus of his dreams, and his fantasies connect with fact only at the moment of his death. Tougher, more materialistic in his view of fantasy, and with a broader sense of philosophical and social contexts, Franju reformulates the book with surprising fidelity, but disengages his audience from Thomas' subjective experience. The war is seen as an 'absurd' unreal backdrop, a network of extraordinary images and moods, but Franju has made a film about fantasy, not a fantasy film. It is compulsive, and utterly absorbing.