Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Kent Jones.
In 1962 French filmmaker and auteur Francois Truffaut flew to Hollywood and sat down with legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, the “master of suspense”, for a series of extensive interviews. A former film critic for the influential French journal Cahiers du Cinema, Truffaut had just begun to make his mark as a director himself with his breakout films The 400 Blows and Jules Et Jim. Truffaut and other major French filmmakers respected Hitchcock and his body of work and regarded him as a true cinematic artist. Hollywood however regarded him as a light entertainer, largely because of his television work. Truffaut was determined to redress that misconception and reveal him as a true auteur and cinematic genius. Hitchcock broke many of the conventional rules of filmmaking.
Although Truffaut and Hitchcock were filmmakers from different generations and different cultures, they shared a passion for the movies and a voracious appetite for cinema theory. And they became good friends. Over the course of a week at Universal Studios in Hollywood, Truffaut patiently questioned Hitchcock about his approach to filming, and gained detailed and revealing insights into his mise en scene.
The interviews formed the basis for Truffaut’s seminal 1966 book Cinema According To Hitchcock, which has since become a veritable Bible on auteur filmmaking. The book contained detailed set up shots and storyboards for some of his most famous scenes, such as the shower scene from Psycho. A number of contemporary filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, David Fincher and Paul Schrader offer up some insights as they effusively talk about Hitchcock’s influence. Missing though is Brian De Palma, whose stylish 1976 thriller Obsession was heavily influenced by Vertigo. It would have been interesting to hear his personal take on Hitchcock.
Hitchcock/Truffaut is a fascinating documentary that explores those intimate and revealing interviews, and it captures Hitchcock in some rare unguarded and honest moments as he talks about his films, but also reveals some more personal details. The documentary has been narrated by French actor Mathieu Amalric.
The director is Kent Jones, a former writer for The Daily Show and a former director of the New York Film Festival. Jones has previously made documentaries about other famous filmmakers such as Val Lewton, a producer of low budget films for RKO, and Oscar winning director Elia Kazan. Jones is obviously a huge fan of Truffaut’s book as well. He has painstakingly trawled through some 27 hours of recorded material from the interviews to select the snippets we hear here. It is fascinating to hear Hitchcock candidly talk about his craft and his filmmaking style.
The film includes lots of archival footage and plenty of clips from some of Hitchcock’s most memorable films, particularly his classics like Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, North By Northwest, Psycho (his only real foray into the horror genre) and The Birds.
The film runs for a brief 79 minutes, but it is one of those rare movies that actually leaves you craving for more. It is a must for cinephiles, film buffs and those interested in the history of cinema and Hitchcock himself.