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HITCHCOCK / TRUFFAUT (review)

hitchcock_truffautHITCHCOCK / TRUFFAUT

Directed by Kent Jones / Featuring Martin Scorsese, David Fincher & Arnaud Desplechin

Francois Truffaut: Are dreams important in your work?

Alfred Hitchcock: Daydreams, probably.

Imagine yourself as a young European filmmaker some 50 years ago. You’re 30 years old with a few critically acclaimed directorial efforts under your belt and a good reputation – but the bulk of your career is still to come. As much a fan of the movies as you are a maker of them, you send a letter to your idol, asking him to sit down with you and chat about his groundbreaking technique … and he actually says yes.

Such was the enviable fortune of French writer and director Francois Truffaut (JULES AND JIM, THE 400 BLOWS) when, in 1962, at the height of his hero’s career, Alfred Hitchcock agreed to spend not one hour or one day with the eager young man, but a full week. And so, accompanied by a translator, Truffaut headed to Hollywood and visited Universal Studios on a daily basis to meet with the legend and analyze every one of his films.

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Documented by photographer Philippe Halsman, the in-depth interviews were eventually published in the iconic 1966 book “Hitchcock/Truffaut”. Now, film critic/comedy writer Kent Jones (The Daily Show) has transformed that book into a documentary, bringing those interviews from over half a century ago back to life and making film lovers everywhere giddy in the process. There’s the obvious draw of listening to Hitchcock discuss his approach to making some of the best-loved suspense movies of all time, i.e. PSYCHO, REAR WINDOW and VERTIGO (although his words are often overshadowed by the audio of the French translator, which is a mild annoyance). But HITCHCOCK / TRUFFAUT also features interviews with highly respected modern-day directors, such as Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater – all stylistic pioneers and incredibly innovative in their own right. It’s fascinating to hear them speak of the lasting influence the Master of Suspense had (and continues to have) on generations of moviemakers. Although you’re already aware of it to some degree, you begin to appreciate even more his role as an artist in Hollywood. Hitchcock’s films were works of art, and Truffaut’s questions of him trigger a master class in his technique.

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Alfred Hitchcock was himself as much of an enigma as any one of his movies. He was perhaps not always likable – one of the film’s interviews even features his reference to actress Vera Miles as a “silly girl” for becoming pregnant and ruining her chances of becoming a star as he had wanted to cast her in the lead role of VERTIGO; her “foolishness” caused him to opt for Kim Novak instead. But he has always been a source of fascination for anyone who’s seen his films or sought to emulate his innovative nature. And HITCHCOCK / TRUFFAUT gives a little glimpse into that man behind the mystery.

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