“Hitchcock/Truffaut”: a document of the weeklong conversation between filmmakers Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut. 3.5 stars out of 4.
More than 50 years ago, two film legends met at a nondescript table at Universal Studios — lavalier microphones around their necks; cigarettes, matches and ashtrays within reach. With the help of a translator, they talked — for a week — and those talks became a seminal book about film: “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” in which the then-up-and-coming French critic/filmmaker, François Truffaut, probed the mind of the British master of cinema, Alfred Hitchcock, about how he made movies.
Now, in a pleasing full circle, the book has become an engaging film. Kent Jones’ documentary uses both video and audio footage of the 1962 interviews, as well as contemporary clips of a number of filmmakers (David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Richard Linklater and Olivier Assayas, among others) talking about how the book’s insights affected their work. Scorsese describes how, in the 1970s, every would-be filmmaker was desperately searching for a print of “Vertigo” (a failure when released in 1958, later recognized as a masterpiece). Linklater notes that Hitchcock’s visual storytelling is so meticulous, many of his works could be watched as silent films.
The film serves as a nice companion piece to the book, adding Hitchcock’s unmistakable voice — those wonderfully stretched-out tones that seem to be filtered through clotted cream — and numerous stunning clips from his work. It’s a pleasure to delve into the light bulb in Cary Grant’s glass of milk in “Suspicion”; the precise way Janet Leigh is framed in the driver’s seat in “Psycho”; the way a certain shot of Tippi Hedren in “The Birds,” in Hitchcock’s words, “used space to indicate the nothingness from which she was shrinking”; the devastating vulnerability of “Vertigo’s” greenlit hotel room.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Hitchcock/Truffaut,’ a documentary directed by Kent Jones. 80 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In English and French, with English subtitles where necessary. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
It’s a reminder that the movies are a portrait of the man — as Fincher says, “his best work is a direct umbilicus to his subconscious” — and a poignant look at an artist who, even after worldwide success, questioned whether he was trapped in his own style. “It would be like the painter Mondrian trying to paint a Cezanne,” he wrote to Truffaut. “Maybe he can, but who would accept it?”
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