Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015)

GENIUS SQUARED: ALFRED HITCHCOCK AND FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT, A MEETING OF MINDS

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.”

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“…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.

http://www.newyorker.com/books/double-take/eighty-five-from-the-archive-pauline-kael

and

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1967/10/21/bonnie-and-clyde

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.   

TRUFFAUT, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND

(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 

 1972 Frenzy 

 1969 Topaz 

 1966 Torn Curtain 

 1964 Marnie 

 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)

et al

 1960 Psycho 

 1960 Startime (TV Series) (1 episode) 

– Incident at a Corner (1960)

 1959 North by Northwest 

 1958 Vertigo 

 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 

 1948 Rope 

 1947 The Paradine Case 

 1946 Notorious 

 1945 Spellbound 

 1945 Watchtower Over Tomorrow (Documentary short) (uncredited) 

 1944 The Fighting Generation (Short) (uncredited) 

 1944 Aventure malgache (Short) 

 1944 Bon Voyage (Short) 

 1944 Lifeboat 

 1943 Shadow of a Doubt 

 1942 Saboteur 

 1941 Suspicion 

 1941 Mr. & Mrs. Smith 

 1940 Foreign Correspondent 

 1940 Rebecca 

 1939 Jamaica Inn 

 1938 The Lady Vanishes 

 1937 The Girl Was Young 

 1936 Sabotage 

 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 Mary 

 1931 The Skin Game 

 1930 Murder! 

 1930 Elstree Calling (some sketches) 

 1930 An Elastic Affair (Short) 

 1929 Sound Test for Blackmail (Short documentary) 

 1929 The Shame of Mary Boyle 

 1929 Blackmail 

 1929 The Manxman 

 1928 Champagne 

 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) 

Score: 4

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