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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Telluride 42: Ingrid on Ingrid

The smallest venue at the Telluride Film Festival is the Backlot, a room in what is usually the library. Backlot shows films about artists and their achievements. One selection that was irresistible to fans of classic cinema was “Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words”.

Diary entries (read in English by Alicia Vikander), interviews and home movies give remarkable insight into the life of the iconic Ingrid. Bergman first came to Hollywood to make a 1939 American version of her Swedish success “Intermezzo”.

Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman

A series of many acclaimed films followed including “Gaslight” (for which she received her first Oscar), “Casablanca”, and Hitchcocks’s “Notorious”. Bergman’s husband Petter Lindström, a Swedish doctor, and their daughter Pia followed her to the US. Pia provides her impressions on life as the daughter of a celebrated movie star and on the separations from her mother.

The film gives Ingrid’s intimate thoughts about her time in Hollywood as well as what led to her desire to make a film in Italy with neorealist director Roberto Rossellini, in conditions very different from the studio system.

The married Ingrid’s open affair with Rossellini created a major scandal which the film documents, including Bergman’s being denounced in the US Congress. Bergman and Rossellini had three children, Roberto, Isabella and Ingrid. All of them as well as Pia provide personal recollections of their times with their famous mother where her absences were acutely felt.

Ingrid Bergman in Paris 1957.

Ingrid Bergman in Paris 1957.

The film covers Bergman’s collaborations with Rossellini and her career after she resumed working for American studios. Liv Ullmann and Sigourney Weaver talk about their experiences acting with her.

Bergman’s children give some intriguing information on their mother including why there will never be a “Mommie Dearest” type book from any of them, and the surprising contents in her letters to a long-time friend.

By focusing on the personal side of Ingrid Bergman and her relationships with her children, this documentary gives a fascinating and full portrait of a great and enduring talent.