“In many of the films now being made, there is very little cinema: they are mostly what I call ‘photographs of people talking.’ When we tell a story in cinema we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise. I always try to tell a story in the cinematic way, through a succession of shots and bits of film in between.”
‘Hitchcock/Truffaut’, produced in 2015 by Kent Jones, is a documentary based on a series of interviews the French critic and filmmaker François Truffaut conducted with the legendary director in 1962. Audio, photographs and extracts from later letters and telegrams tell the story of the relationship between the British director and one of the founders of the French New Wave as the latter seeks to understand, illustrate and celebrate the techniques of the former. The relationship seemed to work both ways, however. The attention paid to Hitchcock apparently gave the master of suspense a new found confidence in his own critical worth and, possibly, lead to an upsurge in academic analysis of his films. Most notably, the movie that is elevated in this re-evalutation of Hitchcock’s work is the Freudian sexual thriller ‘Vertigo’, a film in which technique, pacing and the director’s infamous relationship with his actors, created a totally cohesive narrative. This is as much a study of auterism with Hitchcock raised to a totemic symbol, a cinematic touchstone for the younger directors in the 1960s. What I was disappointed by with this documentary was that it was all one-way traffic. I understand that Hitchcock was the focus of Truffaut’s interviews and subsequent book, but this film seemed to be an opportunity to broaden the scope by examining the effect of Hitchcock on the New Wave movement and beyond. As a neat and insightful presentation of films such as ‘Psycho’, ‘The Birds’ and ‘Vertigo’, and as a rare opportunity to contextualise these with the directors work in silent cinema, this was great, but I wanted something a bit deeper and more original.
Would I recommend it? Yes, if you’re interested in Hitchcock, not if you’re interested in Truffaut. Watch in a double bill with ‘The 400 Blows’ to make a statement.