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HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT (2015) offers a documentary treatment of the
relationship between the veteran English-born Hollywood director Alfred
Hitchcock and the much younger French filmmaker Francois Truffaut and
the ambitious series of interviews conducted by Truffaut in 1962 at the
Beverly Hills Hotel that resulted in Truffaut's pioneering book,
"Hitchcock/Truffaut." (Truffaut asked questions in French, with Helen
Scott supplying the translation.) We hear a number of excerpts from the
audio recordings of the interviews, usually accompanied by clips from
the Hitchcock films under discussion. To supplement all this, director
Kent Jones has added archival footage of both Hitchcock and Truffaut
and photos of them at work, as well as other archival interviews,
including one with Truffaut where he talks about these interviews. In
addition, we get new interviews with a number of other Hollywood
directors, some of whom were Young Turks when Hitchcock was in the
final stages of his career, e.g. Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich and
Paul Schrader, who are all now older than Hitchcock was at the time of
the interviews, and some of whom are flourishing today, e.g. David
Fincher, Richard Linklater, James Gray and Wes Anderson. There is a lot
of rich material here that should engage film students, Hitchcock fans,
and film buffs in general.
In many ways, the film plays like excerpts from a master class on Hitchcock's career. Often we hear Hitchcock's voice describing how he approached a particular scene as the film shows us the scene he's talking about. For instance, we see the overhead long shot from THE BIRDS showing the burning of the gas station and the spreading of the fire to the rest of the town while Hitchcock explains his decision to shoot it that way. He describes the trouble he had convincing Montgomery Clift to look up from the crowd in a scene in I CONFESS in order to justify a cut to something happening above the crowd. We see the famous shower murder in PSYCHO while he is heard describing in detail his approach to composing the scene. Some of the interviewees devote this kind of attention as well, as when Scorsese describes the components of the scene in THE WRONG MAN when the wrongfully accused Henry Fonda first adjusts to his prison cell and we see the scene unfold. The most screen time is devoted to VERTIGO and PSYCHO. Not only do we get Hitchcock's revelations about his working methods and aesthetic decisions on these films, but we get expert commentators such as Scorsese, Bogdanovich, Fincher and Gray.
Of the interviewees, the most screen time is given to Scorsese (Jones's mentor) and Fincher, but they all offer significant insights and clearly speak not only from respect and admiration, but a great love for Hitchcock. We also hear from three foreign filmmakers, the French directors Olivier Assayas and Arnaud Desplechin, and, from Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa. They speak in their own languages, with English subtitles.
Having said all this, I am troubled by certain omissions and questions I had that were never answered in the film. For one thing, we are never told whether Hitchcock knew any French at all. He appears to understand Truffaut's questions at times in the audio recordings and answers in English without waiting for a translation. Numerous letters that he wrote to Truffaut are shown and two of them, including the very first one, are in French. Did he write it in French or did he have someone translate it? I needed this spelled out. Which also begs the question of why there's no discussion of Helen Scott and what her background was and why she undertook this task. Truffaut refers to her in a filmed interview as "my collaborator," but that's the only mention she gets in the entire film.
Also, Peter Bogdanovich had a friendship with Hitchcock beginning back then and even interviewed the master himself around the same time. Why was this parallel relationship not mentioned? Bogdanovich is in the film and probably talked about it, but only a hint of it remains in his brief clips. And speaking of young directors who worshiped Hitchcock, why is there no discussion of Hitchcock's influence on these filmmakers? Truffaut himself was influenced by Hitchcock (see THE SOFT SKIN and THE BRIDE WORE BLACK), but this is not explored in any detail. Paul Schrader is interviewed and he even wrote the screenplay for Brian De Palma's OBSESSION (1976), a film that owes a great deal to VERTIGO, yet there's no mention of this film nor of De Palma himself, whose films were frequently cited for the debts they owed to Hitchcock. Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER (also 1976 and also written by Schrader) has more than a few Hitchcockian touches yet neither Scorsese nor Schrader bring it up. And both OBSESSION and TAXI DRIVER featured the very last scores by Hitchcock's frequent composer, Bernard Herrmann. Truffaut used Herrmann for two scores himself (THE BRIDE WORE BLACK and FAHRENHEIT 451).
Which brings up the film's most egregious omission. Herrmann scored six of the films excerpted in this documentary, with music playing an especially prominent role in the clips from VERTIGO and PSYCHO, yet no one refers to the music or mentions Herrmann by name. I have to assume that his name came up in the interviews, so I wonder why no mention of him made the final cut.
I was also bothered by the fact that film clips went unidentified. I can understand that they didn't want to disrupt the flow of the film by having text constantly pop up, but I can't be the only one who couldn't identify the various silent Hitchcock films excerpted. Also, while varying degrees of attention are paid to numerous Hitchcock films not mentioned in this review so far, e.g. SABOTAGE, SABOTEUR, NOTORIOUS, and MARNIE, I am curious as to why the following masterpieces receive little or no mention: REBECCA, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, and REAR WINDOW.
"Hitchcock/Truffaut" (2015 release; 80 min.) is a documentary based on
the book of the same name, originally published in 1966. The book was
essentially a transcript of a week-long interview/conversation between
directors Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut. As the movie opens,
we are given a quick historical context within which these
conversations took place, and the various contemporaries (Martin
Scorsese, Wes Anderson, David Lynch, etc.) provide their further
perspectives. To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience,
you'll just have to see it for yourself.
Couple of comments: first and foremost, if you are a movie aficionado, you are in for a finger-lickin' good time, as two of the giants in movie history dissect Hitchcock's oeuvre in a manner that we have not seen before, and along the way we also get a fresh and better understanding of Truffaut's oeuvre. But let's be clear: this documentary is mostly about Hitchcock, and at times it feels that the book simply serves as an excuse to examine Hitchcock. But we admittedly also get a clear understanding as to why the book was much more than just a book for Truffaut and that it was as important as any film he made. While Hitchcock's entire career is looked at (including the very early days), the documentary spends more time on two Hitchcock films than any other: Vertigo and Psycho. We also get a clear understanding why Hitchcock claimed that "all actors are cattle", which makes the director of this documentary (the to me previously unknown Kent Jones) wonder how outspoken/strong-willed icons like Robert de Niro, Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman would have fared under Hitchcock. One of the best features of the documentary is that the audio tapes of the week-long conversation between Hitchcock and Truffaut have survived and are used heavily (along with still photographs from those sessions). It's like we're having a seat at the table along with these movie giants and the interpreter. I only wished that the movie lasted longer than its all-too-brief 80 min. running time.
"Hitchcock/Truffaut" opened this weekend without any fanfare or advertising at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. I figured this will not be playing very long, so I went to see it right away. The Friday evening screening where I saw this at was attended okay but not great. Given the lack of any marketing for the movie, this didn't come as a surprise. That said, if you love movies and want to get new insights on Hitchcock and Truffaut, you simply cannot go wrong with this, be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant Video, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "Hitchcock/Truffaut" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT (2015) **** Cinephelic wet dream - fine documentary about how acclaimed filmmakers Francois Truffaut - a then up-and-coming New Wave French director - managed to coerce The Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock for a week long series of in-depth convos on the latter's filmography and the thought process/creative links they both shared resulting in a treatise book/filmmakers/goer's bible and now the end result. Interspersed with fellow disciples of cinema Martin Scorsese, James Gray and brimming with talent David Fincher discuss how Hitch's influences enforced their own visions as well as groundbreaking the format for ages to come. Compiled by Kent Jones with appreciation and love. Go; enjoy.
The only section missing in the film is a discussion of the MUSIC in
Hitchcock films especially the work and career of BERNARD HERMANN!
Neither director touched on the scores for VERTIGO, PSYCHO, or THE
BRIDE WORE BLACK. Others like WAXMAN and TIOMPKIN were also neglected!
Soundtracks are an integral part of both director's work! Shame on you!
Also there was no discussion of the score for TORN CURTAIN! Why no
Hermann score and a substitute for one by by John Barry? You can write
an entire book on film noir music or THE SOUNDS OF DARKNESS. Think
about PSYCHO and the "shower scene" without music. It loses its
chilling effect. What about James Stewart hanging from a roof gutter in
VERTIGO? And that haunting "love theme" in VERTIGO, when Stewart is
following Kim Novak in his car and the crescendo of waves breaking
against the shore when they finally embrace? I can cite many more
moments where music was crucial to a scene in Hitchcock's work, too
many to enumerate here. I just had wished the directors and filmmakers
would have discussed this important phase of both director's work.
Dr. Ronald Schwartz at email@example.com Manhattan
This documentary "Hitchcock/Truffaut" is interesting and informative for the way it details the way the master of suspense worked on his films as Hitch was an icon and inspiration to many as you and many others know his movies left a lasting impact! However many may not know that a 1966 book was published called "Hitchcock/Truffaut" it was a book on cinema and how that the work of Alfred had influenced French director and writer Truffaut. As during this film you the viewer get to hear the actual audio recordings of the interview for the book and see clips from many of Hitch's films and it gives in detail Alfred's background to the days even when he started in advertising. And it talks about how Alfred saw the world as a one world view director as often calling his actors and actresses cattle, clearly Alfred was demanding as discussed is how he shot his films with an emphasis on space and geography. And anyone who's watched a lot of Hitchcock movies know that his camera work was top notch the way he did scenes at angles the documentary talks of this also. Aside from the clips and talk of the impact of his movies other well known directors talk about how Alfred influenced their work as in the film Wes Anderson, David Fincher, and Richard Linklater to name a few give their take on Hitch. Overall good informative documentary that was an interesting look at the master of suspense.
a book . as result of a legendary, fascinating meet. few confessions of great directors. and the trip in the universe of Hitchcock. it is not a lesson about cinema but perfect occasion to see, in other light, scenes, details, performances, steps of a British director who gives new sense to Hollywood. not exactly revelations. and not only Hitchcock. because the documentary propose only a sketch. like a spiderweb. result - an invitation. to see again the films of Hitchcock. to discover the universe of Truffaud. to be witness of a splendid form of admiration, a friendship and a game. to understand the root of a form of rehabilitation of the art of a great director. in essence, a must see for every film fan.
Not the usual kind of biographical stuff about the celebrity's
childhood and how he "rose to prominence" before he "fell from grace."
In other words it's not an episode of "Biography." The object of
attention is the book, "Cinema According to Hitchcock" by an admirer
and fellow director Francois Truffaut, published in 1966.
The film is roughly (but only roughly) chronological and the biographical material is limited but covers both Hitchcock and his interviewer. What makes it more interesting than it might be is that Truffaut was about half Hitchcock's age. They came from different traditions -- Hitch from the silents, when everything needed to be spelled out visually, and Truffaut from the French "New Wave" cinema of the early 1960s, when the rules were thrown out the window.
Despite their different styles, they never clash. Truffaut is too good natured for that, and Hitch too distantly polite in his British way. Only once, in the book, not in the film, is there any sign of friction, when Truffaut suggests a different way Hitch might have handled a scene and he replies, "It seems you want me to write for an art house audience." Lots of excerpts from Hitch's movies and several from Truffaut's as well. A good deal of attention is paid to cinematic techniques -- the position of the camera, the lighting, the pattern of the images themselves. Some of the talking heads, and Hitchcock himself, come up with implications that to me seem questionable. I can't manage to convince myself that, while waiting for Kim Novack to emerge fully transformed from the bathroom, Jimmy Stewart is "getting an erection." In fact, I can't imagine Jimmy Stewart getting an erection at all.
I suspect the program might disappoint some viewers who don't want to listen to the interlocutors making polite jokes. (Twice, Hitch is about to tell an anecdote and asks for the recorder to be turned off.) Nothing in the movie is critical of either Truffaut or Hitchock, who became an alcoholic during his last years.
There are photos from the interview and excerpts from the recording, as well as a description of the surprising friendship that developed between the two. I thought it was all fascinating.
I think if I were a budding film buff, this would be one of the
essential movies in my collection. I even remember when I was about
13/14 years old when the Starz channel had some made-for-TV doc in the
late 90's about Hitchcock (it featured Bogdanovich saying the exact
same words, I can remember them it's that clear, about Psycho as he
does in this doc, plus De Palma, who isn't here perhaps as it'd be too
obvious), but it has the bonus of being about this book and what that
was all about: understanding film grammar and an artist's worldview.
What is that worldview? Cinema, and pure cinema, as much as possible,
even when it doesn't make sense. Actually Hitchcock addresses that in
one of the audio excerpts that were recorded for the book: "logic is
dull." It's all talking heads, but that's fine as well - while I might
have liked a little more of the tension between the two directors
elaborated on (I may also have more insight from reading a biography on
Hitchcock where the whole Truffaut book interview) where at times this
was more probing and uncomfortable on Hitchcock's part, it still works
- because this is made for two audiences: those who know a lot about
Hitchcock, and those who may be more casual, like only seen Psycho or
Vertigo or North by Northwest at best. Or for young people who may be
told about Hitchcock or that something is Hitchcockian, to come across
this is an excellent little film seminar, if not film school, which has
the wise choice of showing clips from most of the major Hitchcocks, but
also the silents (a piece on Easy Virtue is wonderful, as well as
extolling a few of the really pure cinematic moments of Topaz).
But what is "pure" cinema in the Hitchcock sense? Not having to explain much, not even having to rely on the usual exposition-logic that bogs films down sometimes, especially in modern cinema. For Hitchcock a way of elevating a thriller or simple suspense picture or a movie about a man stabbing a woman in a shower to something close to poetry is about manipulating time. While becoming a master of manipulating time and space (and space being something taken for granted by filmmakers, here it's emphasized several times and for good reason), it comes down to a mixture of... knowing the most effective ways to tell the story, to know more-so what *not* to show than what to do, having your actors properly know what they're doing and bring an emotional dimension that the director can't bring (which could bring conflict with a guy like Montgomery Clift), and having the ability to bring the personal into the commercial.
While one can certainly say with good reason "well, just go read the book", I think Kent Jones' aim is to make clear how much of a global impact, from movie lords like Scorsese and Fincher and Linklater to the French (Assayas and Desplain) to Kiyoshi Kurosawa, this man had on cinema, and that the book was a force for real change and reevaluation of what cinema meant to the art form. There's the temptation at different times, depending on how one looks at his career, to say that HItchcock got too much attention and also not enough, which is what Truffaut did as being simply a gigantic fan himself. So it makes sense that the highlights of the doc are long looks at Vertigo (how Scorsese breaks down individual sequences would make this a recommendation for me alone) and Psycho, and how the power of the film came and still comes from what Hitchcock does to his audience's expectations: "I'm not going to give you what you want, I'm going to give you something else." In about 80 minutes I got what I wanted and hoped for: a fun and loving tribute to a man's career through another artist's work (Truffaut gets a little time as well via 400 Blows and Jules & Jim), though it's not without a few little touches of self-doubt (what if he had done *more* experimentation, not stuck in the thriller genre his whole career). I only wish it was longer.
The Greatest Story Hitchcock Ever Told
HITCHCOCK/Truffaut; Document, UK. 2015. director Kent Jones. 78 minutes. Viewed on Saturday afternoon in the little tent at Sodankylä Midnight Sun Film Festival June 2016. Makes you want to read and devour the celebrated Truffaut book on Hitch ASAP. Fantastic film. Great shots of Hitchcock film posters. Sharply selected excerpts from Hitchcock films. Opens with a stark still shot of actress Sylvia Sidney in "Sabotage", 1936, and takes off from there on a whirlwind tour of the director's career and obliquely some, but not too much, of his personal life.
Comments by Scorcese, Schrader, Wes Anderson, Peter Bogdanovitch, Olivier Assayas, Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, David Fincher and even young Jean-Luc Godard, among others. All indicating how they were influenced by Hitchcock one way or another. Kiyoshi speaks in Japanese, the French directors in French. Subtitles in Finnish (natch)...
Many shots of Hitchcock as a young man in London, not yet as rocky-poly as he became later. Actually, not a bad looking if slightly portly young man on a roll. The importance of his wife in the background. Throughout his career he consulted with her regularly on all of his films although she was only credited officially in a few of the early ones. He is invited to Hollywood. Has no interest in Tinseltown but is itching to get into a fully equipped Hollywoid studio.
One of the high points of the film is an extensive discussion of the making of PSYCHO, it's social impact in 1960 (people were literally screaming in the theaters!) and a detailed analysis of the construction of the infamously famous shower scene in which ultra sexy Janet Leigh is stabbed to death by ultra-psycho Anthony Perkins. This discussion of the making of that flabbergastingly powerful scene by the master himself could be excerpted and show on its own as a complete independent master class in filmmaking. Mr. Jones's magnificent 78 minute film about the making of a book is, in fact, a Master Class in documentary filmmaking, and on its own justified this trip to the upper reaches of Finland. Hats off -- Bravo! -- I want to own this film so I can watch it over and over endlessly.
Among other things it reminds me of my own relationship to Hitchcock over the years. As a youth I saw many of his films routinely when they came out at my neighborhood theater but only thought of them as great entertainment, not as Great Art. It was only when I was a student of linguistics at UCLA that I met many students from the film department who worshiped him as a true artist and a creative genius that my views began to change.
At the Pacific Film Archive in 1975 I saw every film in a complete Hitchcock retrospective arranged by Tom Luddy who later founded the Telluride film festival. It was at this time that I truly began to understand the difference between film as entertainment and film as art and how the two can merge without contradiction simultaneously satisfying the intellect as well as the need for fun and distraction.
Truffaut himself is, of course, a major character in this film with live and still footage of Hitchcock as well. Many stills are shown from the three day interview in Hitchcock's office at Universal studios in 1962 which served as the basis for the book --with Truffaut, Hitchcock and a woman interpreter -- Truffaut didn't know English nor did Hitchcock know French. Yet the master recognized Truffaut as an upcoming talent and a worthy interviewer. The Point is made that they were of different generations but each was cognizant of film as art and respected the other. Although at the time of the interviews, 1962, Truffaut had only made three films, he was already recognized as a major new director of international importance. In a late ceremonial speech at the Hollywood Oscars Truffaut, underlining the respect in which Hitchcock was held in France as opposed to the cretin like lack of respect in America, Truffaut states a bit bluntly: "In America you call him "Hitch" ~~ in France we call him Monsieur Hitchcock!" --
To the very end Monsieur Hitchcock wavered between seeing himself as primarily entertainer or primarily artist but there is no doubt that he was most interested in connecting with and manipulating the emotions of the audience. So, in a sense he was above all a master of mass psychology --another point subtly and effectively made in this exceptional study of an exceptional film career.
Hitchcock dies on April 29, 1980 at age 81, and most surprisingly Truffaut less than four years later, on October 21, 1984, at the untimely age of 52 of a brain tumor. Hitch's career was over but Truffaut still had untold amounts of offerings in store. His book on Hitchcock and this film about the book and the man behind the book are now part of his deathless contribution to the history of Cinema.
Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015) was written and directed by Kent Jones. The
movie is a documentary about the two-week period during which the young
French filmmaker Francois Truffaut interviewed the older filmmaker
Alfred Hitchcock. Truffaut--who greatly admired Hitchcock's work--was
writing a book about Hitchcock. It was published in 1966 with the title
"Cinema According to Hitchcock."
This long interview was sound recorded, but apparently not entirely filmed. So, often we are watching a still while the words are given as voice-over. We see clips of great Hitchcock and Truffaut movies, but usually I couldn't see the relationship between the words and the film clips.
Also, Hitchcock spoke English, and Truffaut spoke French, so each was hearing the other person's words through a interpreter. (Obviously, the interpreter was a professional. Still, unless you know both languages well, you can't tell whether each man is hearing the essence of the other man's words.)
Most of the movie consists of comments about Hitchcock, Truffaut, and the book given by famous film directors. These include Peter Bogdanovich, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Paul Schrader, and Martin Scorsese.
I'm a movie buff, and I've reviewed over 600 movies for IMDb since 1999. However, I don't understand the intricate technical subtleties that film professors teach, and that were discussed in this movie. I felt as if I were outside, looking inside, watching professionals talk about their magic. I would have preferred less talking and more film clips, but director Jones wanted to give us talking heads instead. Of course, the heads that were talking were highly successful movie directors, so it's hard to complain. However, this is a better movie for highly knowledgeable film people. It was interesting enough for my wife and me, but I won't suggest that you seek it out unless you are really versed in cinema.
We saw this film at the wonderful Dryden Theatre in the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY. Naturally, because the movies discussed were meant for the large screen, the film clips work better on a large screen. However, the interviews will work just as well on a small screen.
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