Hitch­cock/ Truf­faut

OUT MARCH 4 / CERT. TBC / 80 MINS.

Empire (UK) - - IN CINEMAS - IAN FREER

PLOT A documentary ex­plor­ing the le­gendary in­ter­view be­tween crit­ic­turned-film­maker Fran­cois Truf­faut and his idol Al­fred Hitch­cock that formed the ba­sis of sem­i­nal book Hitch­cock/truf­faut.

IN 1962, THE 30 YEAROLD François Truf­faut, a lead­ing light in the French New Wave, and the 63 year-old Al­fred Hitch­cock, the Mas­ter Of Sus­pense, met for a book-length in­ter­view that formed the ba­sis of one of film lit­er­a­ture’s key works, Hitch­cock/truf­faut (if it were done to­day, it would be a Google Hang­out). Kent Jones’ documentary, fol­low­ing his previous films about Val Lew­ton and Elia Kazan, charts the con­ver­sa­tion and mat­ters aris­ing. Smartly il­lus­trated by a canny choice of great clips, the re­sult is a cinephile’s dream.

Nar­rated by Bob Bal­a­ban — Truf­faut’s side­kick in Close En­coun­ters — the film falls into three sec­tions. The first tells the story of the in­ter­view it­self, an eight-day marathon tête-à-tête at Univer­sal Stu­dios us­ing au­dio tape punc­tu­ated by pic­tures. Hitch­cock spoke no French so Truf­faut’s col­league He­len Scott does a nim­ble job of trans­lat­ing and re­mains the un­sung hero of the whole en­ter­prise. What’s de­light­ful here is Truf­faut’s fan­boy­ish en­thu­si­asm quizzing Hitch­cock on his his ideal of “pure cinema” and wheedling out some tricks of the trade (in Sus­pi­cion, Hitch put a light bulb in milk to make it glow). The men share traits — in a pre-dvd/in­ter­net age both men have a ridicu­lous abil­ity to re­call sin­gle shots and mo­ments — but Jones makes clear the dif­fer­ences. While Hitch­cock jokes about his fa­ther hav­ing him ar­rested and locked up in jail for a gag (spawn­ing the di­rec­tor’s life­long dis­trust of the po­lice), the young Truf­faut was ac­tu­ally put in jail for tru­ancy and theft, never know­ing a com­pas­sion­ate fa­ther fig­ure.

Truf­faut’s in­ten­tion in writ­ing the book was to el­e­vate the rep­u­ta­tion of Hitch­cock from pure en­ter­tainer into true artist. To ex­plore this theme, Jones wheels in big guns as back up. Martin Scors­ese, David Fincher (who calls Ver­tigo “so per­verted”), Wes An­der­son and Richard Linklater all line up to elu­ci­date on his work and in­flu­ence. The third sec­tion takes us deeper into Hitch­cock’s fil­mog­ra­phy and, while it is al­ways a priv­i­lege to lis­ten to Scors­ese talk about Psy­cho and Ver­tigo, it feels like a step into a dif­fer­ent documentary.

Tak­ing its cue from the book, the film feels bi­ased to­wards Hitch­cock over Truf­faut, and for all its talk of “pure cinema” it is very much a stan­dard talk­ing­heads documentary. But what cour­ses through ev­ery frame is a love of movies and their head-spin­ning, heart-stop­ping power and pos­si­bil­i­ties. If you love Hitch­cock al­ready, Hitch­cock/truf­faut will give you new food for thought and a hun­gry de­sire to re­turn to the movies. And, if you have yet to dis­cover the di­rec­tor, man, are you in for a treat.

VER­DICT A land­mark film book gets its just deserts. The clev­erly cu­rated clips are stun­ning and the anal­y­sis thought­pro­vok­ing in this richly re­ward­ing piece.

DI­REC­TOR Kent Jones CAST Martin Scors­ese, David Fincher, Wes An­der­son, Richard Linklater

Truf­faut and Hitch share cinema se­crets. Plate of Hob­nobs and un­work­able cof­fee-pot thing just out of shot.

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