Directed by Kent Jones
Starring Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Mathieu Amalric
Film Review by Colin Lomas
In 1966, movie maker and lynchpin of the French New Wave cinema movement Francois Truffaut released ‘Cinema According to Hitchcock’; a book based on a week-long set of conversations he had with Alfred Hitchcock about the craft of Hitchcock’s art as a filmmaker. Jones’ movie employs recorded dialogue from the interview alongside discussions with modern directors who relive their love and fascination of the book while delighting in explaining their affection for the films of both men.
The list of directors heaping praise on Hitchcock here is impressive; Fincher, Scorsese, Anderson, Schrader, Linklater, Bogdanovich, Kurosawa, but possibly most remarkable is how diverse their respective styles co-exist within their shared influence. This perfectly demonstrates how the obsessive concentration on the detail from a man brought up on silent film simply transcends genre, the trick being in the composition and narrative. The basics are almost always the most crucial.
Throughout the entire film, Hitchcock’s need to be appreciated as an artist and not simply a big-studio entertainer is heavily apparent. One of the reasons he responds so well to Truffaut is because the questions asked are always about the art of what Hitchcock has achieved; how a single look transforms a scene, how a close-up on an inanimate object is a genius misdirection, Hitchcock revels in explaining the minutiae and consuming the adulation. It’s often fascinating to hear a single two second clip of a movie dissected in such detail by so many of the contributors.
It’s refreshing that although the book was fundamentally an interview with Hitchcock, Truffaut’s work gets a decent portion of the running time. This dual aspect narrative works excellently as it weaves the old with the new via the base premise of the interview. It’s likely that less of its audience will be familiar with the Frenchman than with The Master of Suspense and as such it acts as a decent introduction to a man many feel was the greatest filmmaker in French history. The comparison between the different approaches to creating a film is appealing too; Hitchcock the obsessive dictator, Truffaut the elastic improviser.
One of the most interesting aspects to the movie is Hitchcock’s frankness, from his somewhat uncomfortable explanation of the sexual narrative of Vertigo, his worryingly forthright misogyny and his brutally low estimation of actors who he offhandedly likens to cattle.
Hitchcock/Truffaut is a short movie, less than 80 minutes, and it feels and flows just right. Trying to achieve something distinctive in a documentary about a man who has had more critiques and biopics than most world leaders was a tough ask, yet Jones’ approach works just about perfectly.
There won’t be any major revelations for Hitchcock aficionados here but the details of Truffaut will be enough to keep even the biggest Hitch fan-boy captivated. For anyone relatively new to Hitchcock or interested in experiencing a wonderful insight into the intricacies of filmmaking from two masters of the art, Hitchcock/Truffaut is a delight that should not be missed.
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