Francois Truffaut died of brain cancer when he was 52 years old. His extraordinary contribution to French film included The 400 Blows (1959), Shoot the Pianist (1960) and Jules et Jim (1962).
He wrote the story for Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960), one of the French Nouvelle Vague films which set the standard for 1960s film makers around the world to break from the mould of what their audiences expected.
“Those New Wave directors who started as critics, mainly writing for the French journal called Cahiers du Cinema, regularly praised the films they loved and tore apart those films they hated in print.”
“…mainstream cinema, especially in France, was not expressing human life, thought, and emotion in a genuine way. Many of the popular movies of the era, they argued, were dry, recycled, inexpressive and out of touch with the daily lives of post-war French youth.” – http://www.newwavefilm.com/new-wave-cinema-guide/nouvelle-vague-where-to-start.shtml
“Truffaut remained true to the Cahiers legacy by inserting into each film references to his favourite periods of film history and his admired directors (Lubitsch, Hitchcock, Renoir). Jules and Jim, set in the early days of cinema, provided an occasion to incorporate silent footage and to employ old -fashioned irises. Truffaut sought not to destroy traditional cinema but to renew it. In the Cahiers spirit he aimed to enrich commercial filmmaking by balancing personal expression with a concern for his audience: “I have to feel I am producing a piece of entertainment.” – Kristin Thompson & David Bordwell, Film History: An Introduction.
Truffaut was the man the original creators of Bonnie and Clyde (1967) went to in the early 1960s to produce a French movie made in America – he had not yet directed a film in the USA. The Frenchman played a significant part in the path that film took before it was created. Arthur Penn directed (Truffaut’s idea) and Warren Beatty (producer/lead actor) had wanted Truffaut to direct before accepting the Frenchman’s recommendation.
Bonnie and Clyde struggled when released until new critic Pauline Kael took up its cause and lambasted the old guard of critics who had mercilessly put down the film.
The year 1967 is said to be when US movies grew up and released the likes of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas into the pantheon.
In 1966 Truffaut’s book Hitchcock/Truffaut was published. It was the record of the French director’s interviews – over one week in 1962 – with Alfred Hitchcock, a man revered by the Europeans but thought of as an entertainer rather than an artist in America. Given his reverence for the English director, Truffaut’s quote: “I have to feel I am producing a piece of entertainment” appears incongruous with his hero.
In Kent Jones’s Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015), art vs entertainment is often mentioned with Hitchcock’s methods at all times entertaining but not widely appreciated as art by his American critics and audience. The book, and this film, scotch all that.
Using interviews with Scorsese (Raging Bull, Goodfellas), Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom), David Fincher (Se7en, The Social Network), Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon), Richard Linklater (Boyhood) and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Retribution, Cure, Seance) among others, the documentary records the impact Hitchcock had on the next generation.
For the film fan, references to camera angles and which way actors move or look are eye opening. A still photograph of Hitchcock, wearing his trademark suit, lying with a technician in a cramped space on the ground was particularly illuminating.
The man, who got his directorial start at 23 (1922) had a history in silent films. Getting the right shot was the thing. I think it was Kurosawa who commented that all Hitchcock’s famous films could have been played silent and still made sense to a viewer.
(Right): Perhaps you thought you’d seen that face before but were not sure where? Francois Truffaut played a scientist in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
FOOTNOTE: Truffaut often played cameos but mostly bystanders (as did Hitchcock) in his own films.
Following are Hitchcock’s films from IMDb. Those I have put in bold would rate a mention in most books on film history and technique. I am sure I’ve missed a few others.
2014 Memory of the Camps (TV Movie documentary)
1985 Frontline (TV Series documentary) (1 episode)
– Memory of the Camps (1985) … (uncredited)
1976 Family Plot
1966 Torn Curtain
1963 The Birds
1962 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (TV Series) (1 episode)
– I Saw the Whole Thing (1962)
1955-1961 Alfred Hitchcock Presents (TV Series) (17 episodes)
– Bang! You’re Dead (1961)
– The Horse Player (1961)
– Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat (1960)
– The Crystal Trench (1959)
– Arthur (1959)
1960 Startime (TV Series) (1 episode)
– Incident at a Corner (1960)
1959 North by Northwest
1957 Suspicion (TV Series) (1 episode)
– Four O’Clock (1957)
1956 The Wrong Man
1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much
1955 The Trouble with Harry
1955 To Catch a Thief
1954 Rear Window
1954 Dial M for Murder
1953 I Confess
1951 Strangers on a Train
1950 Stage Fright
1949 Under Capricorn
1947 The Paradine Case
1945 Watchtower Over Tomorrow (Documentary short) (uncredited)
1944 The Fighting Generation (Short) (uncredited)
1944 Aventure malgache (Short)
1944 Bon Voyage (Short)
1943 Shadow of a Doubt
1941 Mr. & Mrs. Smith
1940 Foreign Correspondent
1939 Jamaica Inn
1938 The Lady Vanishes
1937 The Girl Was Young
1936 Secret Agent
1935 The 39 Steps
1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much
1934 Strauss’ Great Waltz
1932 Number 17
1931 East of Shanghai
1931 The Skin Game
1930 Elstree Calling (some sketches)
1930 An Elastic Affair (Short)
1929 Sound Test for Blackmail (Short documentary)
1929 The Shame of Mary Boyle
1929 The Manxman
1928 Easy Virtue
1928 The Farmer’s Wife
1927 When Boys Leave Home
1927 The Ring
1927 The Lodger
1926 The Mountain Eagle
1925 The Pleasure Garden
1923 Always Tell Your Wife (Short) (uncredited)
1922 Number 13 (unfinished)