Cinéma’s vis­ual vérité

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

ON THE LAST oc­ca­sion that the Bri­tish Film In­sti­tute com­piled its poll of the great­est ever movies – among the few such charts worth heed­ing – Michael Dwyer, this pa­per’s late film cor­re­spon­dent, named Day for Night as one of his own 10 favourites. Hap­pily, a glance at François Truf­faut’s 1973 med­i­ta­tion on film-mak­ing, reis­sued this week in a shiny new print, con­firms the pic­ture as a knotty, witty gem of the bright­est lus­tre. Self-re­flec­tion has never been so plea­sur­able.

Day for Night (both the English and French ti­tles refers to the prac­tice of shoot­ing evening scenes be­fore dark) de­tails the plea­sures and dis­con­tents of a crew work­ing on a (pos­si­bly not very good) film en­ti­tled Meet Pamela. Truf­faut him­self plays the di­rec­tor. Jean-Pierre Léaud is the young dream­boat and Jac­que­line Bis­set a neu­rotic English ac­tor. The usual stresses of film-mak­ing are aug­mented by af­fairs, preg­nan­cies and car crashes (both lit­eral and fig­u­ra­tive).

You could ar­gue that the founders of La Nou­velle Vague, em­ploy­ing post-mod­ernism be­fore the term was fash­ion­able, al­ways made movies about movies. Jean-Luc Go­dard’s Breath­less is, as much as any­thing, a med­i­ta­tion on the po­tency of pop­u­lar Amer­i­can cin­ema. How­ever, Day for Night (along with Go­dard’s Con­tempt) at­tempts to ac­tu­ally en­gage with the nuts and bolts of the movie-mak­ing process.

When nov­el­ists start writ­ing about nov­el­ists, the reader can be for­given a weary groan. But the film set is a per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for stag­ing a dra­matic nar­ra­tive: a tight im­promptu fam­ily of pro­fes­sion­als is rammed to­gether for a lim­ited amount of time. Truf­faut’s film of­fers a near-per­fect blend of al­lu­sive in-jokes and loosely struc­tured, high-qual­ity soap opera.

In a largely neg­a­tive re­view, US critic Pauline Kael said Day for Night was for “those who would rather see a movie, any movie (a bad one, a stupid one, or an evanes­cent, sweet-but-dry lit­tle wafer of a movie like this one), than do any­thing else”. Many read­ers will view this as an un­in­tended rec­om­men­da­tion.

Stars play­ing stars: Jac­que­line Bis­set and Jean-Pierre Léaud

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.