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
Interpreter Helen Scott (1915-1987) is uncredited in this documentary although her voice is heard throughout. Born in New York, she was brought up in Paris where her father worked for the Associated Press. Decorated for her work on the Free France resistance radio in Brazzaville, Congo, during World War 2, she later worked for the French Film Office in New York and helped Truffaut when he needed help with communicating in English. See more »
a full course meal for aspiring and already hardcore cinephiles
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.
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