In 1962 Hitchcock and Truffaut locked themselves away in Hollywood for a week to excavate the secrets behind the mise-en-scène in cinema. Based on the original recordings of this meeting-used to produce the mythical book Hitchcock/Truffaut-this film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time and plummets us into the world of the creator of Psycho, The Birds, and Vertigo. Hitchcock's incredibly modern art is elucidated and explained by today's leading filmmakers: Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Schrader.Written by
Cohen Media Website
An Appetizer for the Real Meal: the 8-Day 1962 "Truffaut/Hitchcock" interview...
The title plays like a clever nod to "Frost/Nixon" but in this case, the interviewee's name is put first, a matter of respect that even Truffaut would have acknowledged. Look at the poster, Truffaut is like a disciple totally enthralled by the humorously pedantic look the Master is deigning to give him. In reality they were just having fun together, having earned a few minutes of relaxation after having provided so many hours of valuable insights not only on Hitchcock's movies but on his vision of film-making, and if anyone was entitled to say what film-making was about, no doubt it was the director with the iconic shadowy silhouette.
Indeed, even when he wasn't making great movies, Alfred Hitchcock was still the greatest director to have ever graced the screen. He reconciled two generally conflicting approaches: the artistic and the technical, he could indulge to symbolism, to hyperbolic visuals, to innovative dilatation or accelerations of time, to juxtaposition of shots or the use of specific leitmotiv but he never, never improvised: every frame, every moment was sketched, planned and studied with a meticulous attention to small (and pervert) details and a unique sense of anticipation. You can see this pattern even in that distinctively slow voice he had, as if he had to think before, set up his mind, before announcing a subject. And yet he could sound witty and funny on the spot. Hitchcock was a man of paradoxes, but he was himself a paradox, an artist, a technician and a natural.
That's the genius of Hitchcock. And that's how he became the true Master of Suspense; he had to get in control of every single element: the timing, the use of particular objects or plot device (his McGuffin darlings) as props, of even his characters as the props of his own creativity. His infamous "treat actors like cattle" takes its full meaning once you hear him talk about the attention for characterization and his fascination for human paradoxes: having a totally innocent man being mistaken from a dangerous criminal, a lovable family uncle being a serial killer or a sophisticated blonde have a volcanic libido in privacy. Hitchcock was like a Master Puppeteer, he didn't belong to the Elia Kazan or method acting of school, he pulled the strings himself and it's only fitting that his trademark theme was Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette". Basically, many of his movies can be looked at as a macabre march (or chase) of a puppet-like character.
But we were his puppets as well. Hitchcock could toy with our emotions like no other director, making it an instant signature, probably what made him recognized by 'Cahiers du Cinéma' as an auteur director. When then critic François Truffaut, along with New Wave icons to be (Chabrol, Brialy and Godard), started to re-evaluated the history of cinema, they defined the auteur as a director whose unique vision and sense of narrative and style shaped most of the movie. The idea wasn't to dismiss any movie from a non auteur but to say that even the lesser movie from an auteur will be more interesting than the other director's main work. In the documentary, Scorsese mentions that the art of directing is so reliant on contributions: from the actors, the editors, the writers, the musicians that you can't just make the director the sole 'maker' of the film what would "Psycho" be without Bernard Herrmann or Anthony Perkins.
Still, Hitchcock can get away with it. Even his lesser movies, with casting choices he ended up regretting, had a Hitchcockian quality. It started in the 30's, became widely known in the 40's and then culminated in the 50's. In 1962, he had just finished "Psycho" and was working on his "Birds" when Truffaut was only starting with three movies that met with international acclaim. Truffaut was like a critic, a journalist, a fan and a fellow director and on these four levels, he seemed to know more about Hitchcock than Hitchcock himself. From the interview, he released a book that became a Bible for cinema, a frame-by-frame study of Hitchcock's most creative film sequences on which David Fincher said to have been a huge influence on his future work.
Say what you want about Truffaut's movies but he shared at least with Hitchcock the passion for the art and the craft, the two really meant business.
Now, there are many juicy facts to gather from the documentary, and they're punctuated by some neat interventions from directors such as Scorsese, Fincher or Anderson. But the biggest favor the documentary does is to encourage you to listen to the interview between Truffaut and Hitchcock and that's just an offer no film-maker can refuse. Hitchcock goes through every major film he made and provides his own insights, even criticism toward movies we generally praise. Hitchcock was a practical man believing a movie that didn't met the public has faulted in a way or another, and listening to him criticizing even Joan Fontaine in "Suspicion" is one of these 'a-ha' moments you're begging for. A director praising Hitchcock, what's new? Hitchcock criticizing his work, now, that's even better. The documentary isn't just about retrospective analysis, it also allows us to understand the elements that made Hitchcock such an iconic director.
It's Truffaut who said that Hitchcock never made movies that belonged to a time, he never followed trends and fashion, his movies belonged to himself and that way, end up being eternally modern. Hitchcock was obviously flattered by the compliment (coming in the first interview if I remember correctly) and could see that Truffaut wasn't an ordinary. You could feel the bond growing between the two men and the friendship would go on till Hitchcock's death. The interview is the real thing, this documentary is just an appetizer.
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