Telluride 42: “Hitchcock/Truffaut”

“Cinefile porn” is how James Grey, one of the directors (“The Immigrant”) appearing in the documentary “Hitchcock/Truffaut”, accurately described the film to its director Kent Jones, as related at the Telluride Film Festival.

In 1962, French director Francois Truffaut, a 30-year-old former film critic, had directed three films, including being chosen Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for “The 400 Blows”. He interviewed celebrated director Alfred Hitchcock who was finishing his 48th feature film “The Birds”. The conversations became a well-received book “Hitchcock/Truffaut”.

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Very skillfully edited, this fascinating film covers both directors and the enduring appeal of Hitchcock’s films. The audio tapes of the Hitchcock/Truffaut conversations give remarkable insight into Hitchcock’s creative process that created many memorable scenes in film history.

Hitchcock meticulously planned his films in advance for maximum impact. I remember that the book had extensive photos that documented the visual development of key sequences.

Hitchcock’s comments are skillfully combined with many clips of his films for an entertaining and insightful analysis. Excerpts of important scenes like THE shower scene in “Psycho” and the unique candle carried by Cary Grant in “Suspicion” visualize the discussion.

Francois Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock

Francois Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock also gives some personal anecdotes as when Montgomery Clift clashed with the director by refusing to follow the director’s plan for a scene in “I Confess”.

Besides Grey, directors including Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, and Wes Anderson discuss Hitchcock and their experiences with “Hitchcock/Truffaut”. Hitchcock is described as an artist who wrote with the camera, and, more than anyone, concerned with the psychological underpinning of his characters.

The film covers the lasting effect of the book “Hitchcock/Truffaut” that changed the reputation of Hitchcock from entertainer to artist.

At a reception at the Telluride Film Festival, I told the film’s director Kent Jones, also an author, how impressed I was with how much was covered in the 80 minute running time. Jones said he likes to work compactly. I also told Jones that his film was the first time I got to see parts of my favorite Hitchcock “Notorious” on the big screen.

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