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From Cannes: "Hitchcock/Truffaut" Illuminates

Dir. Kent Jones (Dist. TBA)—3.5 Stars

By Tianxing V. Lan, Crimson Staff Writer

The documentary “Hitchcock/Truffaut” is based on a recording of François Truffaut’s weeklong 1962 interview with Alfred Hitchcock. The transcription of this interview was later published under the title “Hitchcock” and had a huge influence over the recognition of Hitchcock as not only a master of suspense but also a great of the cinematic art. The new film by Kent Jones revisits this episode, and although it might not be as absorbing as the work created by Hitchcock or Truffaut, it definitely provides some interesting insight for their fans.

The first point the film makes is that in early ’60s, Hitchcock was not regarded as a great director, which might be hard to imagine in our age. While his films were popular all over the world and Hollywood big studios viewed him as the biggest asset, he was recognized as a commercial film craftsman instead of an artist. On the other hand, although Truffaut had only made a handful of films by then, he was among the leaders of the French New Wave, the revolution in film history that championed the idea of the auteur filmmaker and sought to promote film from mere entertainment to high art art. Thus, when Truffaut admitted that his favorite director was Hitchcock, he shocked critics and fans alike. In deciding to do an interview with Hitchcock, he was acting not only as an admirer but also as an artistic connoisseur (a role he had played longer than his role as director) who wanted a brilliant filmmaker to get the recognition he deserved.

The film investigates the conversation between Truffaut and Hitchcock about filmmaking intercut with modern directors talking about the influence of Hitchcock. Among this list are Martin Scorsese, an icon of the New Hollywood who saw numerous Hitchcock films when they were played in the cinema, David Fincher, who read “Hitchcock” when he was a kid, and Olivier Assayas, whose films diverge significantly from the Hitchcockian style. They talk about the difference between fear and suspense, the use of space and time, and the role of actors. It is obvious from the recording how much Truffaut admired Hitchcock and how excited he was to talk to this idol about cinema.

In fact, Truffaut even went as far as to make a list of all the Hitchcock films he wanted to discuss and went over them one by one with the master of suspense himself. This is probably the most interesting part of the documentary, since Hitchcock reveals many of his own opinions about his films. For instance, when he talks about the scene in "Vertigo" when Kim Novak gets dressed in the bathroom and appears in front of Jimmy Stewart, Hitchcock explains that the subtext is that the man is waiting for the woman to undress, and when she approaches him, "he's having an erection." They also briefly discuss Truffaut's work, with Hitchcock declaring that he would think better of the scene in "The 400 Blows" where Antoine sees his mother cheating had no dialogue.

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