Hitchcock/Truffaut

“Hitchcock not only intensified life; he intensified cinema.”
François Truffaut, Hitchcock/Truffaut (revised edition, 1980)

In 1962, young “nouvelle vague” co-founder François Truffaut sat down for a week of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock. And the rest, as they say, is history. These interviews were published in book form as Hitchcock/Truffaut (in french Le cinéma selon Hitchcock), and is today considered the ultimate book on cinema. At the time Truffaut was also a film commentator for the famed Cahiers du cinéma magazine. Truffaut and his Cahiers du cinéma colleagues were frustrated by the general snobbism towards Hitchcock, John Ford, Howard Hawks and other Hollywood filmmakers. The first edition of Hitchcock/Truffaut changed the world’s perceptions about Alfred Hitchcock. Truffaut showed that Hitchcock was not merely an artist, but a cinema genius. This documentary is mostly about the book and how it has influenced several generations of filmmakers. But it is also about François Truffaut, his passion for cinema and the common ground he shared with the”Master of suspense”. Director Kent Jones interviewed mostly American directors. Among them: Wes Anderson, Peter Bogdanovich, David Fincher, Richard Linklater, Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese. But there are also France’s Olivier Assayas and Arnaud Desplechin, and Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (not related to Akira Kurosawa). These directors are so passionate about their love for Hitchcock’s films that we share their attachments, their emotions and trepidations. And we get to listen to the tapes of the original interviews, with Truffaut’s questions in French, Hitchcock’s answers in English and collaborator Helen Scott translating. Throughout the film we are reminded of that exchange they have about dreams:

François Truffaut: But would you say that dreams have a bearing on your work?
Alfred Hitchcock: Daydreams, probably.

Scorsese talks about the dreamlike quality in Hitchcock’s films. Vertigo is of particular note to him. Others mention the perverse nature of the film, or the sensuality of Kim Novak coming out of the bathroom. Of Psycho, Martin Scorsese mentions the casual way Hitchcock directs at first, and then surprise his audience by sudden bursts of violence and by killing Janet Leigh, the lead, early in the film. “A film that changed everything”, is what he says about Psycho. What is undeniable after watching Hitchcock/Truffaut is the intensity of Hitchcock’s images. And how beautiful that intensity is. Is 80 minutes too short? In my opinion, 10 hours would not be enough.

Quote: “I had never heard that Mr. Hitchcock drew everything and then shot it. And you have to remember that I was from the ’70s, where at that particular point in the history of film people were throwing up a lot in films, and they were sweating and drooling and improvising and walking off camera, and if things were blurry, that was okay, and they were using at lot of zooms. So, his style was very different from what I was used to. To pre-edit a scene, and then shoot it the way you want to edit it… and then edit it is… insane, because it’s not possible. You’ll never get a good scene that way. But Hitchcock got a great scene every time. What’s exceptional, really, isn’t that he was so adamant and such a perfectionist. What’s amazing is that it worked! Usually, you have in your mind a notion of how this scene is going to look, how it’s going to run, how it’s going to feel. And then you put it there like you imagine it… it doesn’t work!! So, you have to re-edit, and then you have to re-edit that. Then you have to re-edit that. But what he did was almost supernatural when you think about it. He pre-thought it so thoroughly and with such an accurate imagination that when you cut it, it worked just the way he thought it would… every time, every scene, every movie!” Actress Karen Black (1939 – 2013), on filming Family plot (1976)

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Hitchcock/Truffaut

Directed by:
Kent Jones

Screenplay by:
Kent Jones
Serge Toubiana

80 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

In English, French, and Japanese with English subtitles

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