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Intercalating perspectives from contemporary directors and priceless audio recordings, this most discerning documentary to complement François Truffaut's 1966 book of the same name is an epitome of Hitchcock hysteria that should satisfy proselytes but offers little novel for his fans.
Film critic Kent Jones wrote and directed this documentary about the making of (and reaction to) the famous book of conversations between director Alfred Hitchcock (then 63) and acolyte and French new wave director Francois Truffaut (then 30). The book runs through Hitch's entire oeuvre with his frank and seemingly unguarded and unpretentious thoughts about each film (originally up until The Birds, 1963, but later updated to include the later films, including Family Plot, 1976, based on further correspondence between the directors). Although this documentary does involve an array of talking heads (David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Olivier Assayas, James Gray, Paul Schrader, Richard Linkater, Peter Bogdanovich, and of course Martin Scorsese), it is really the clips from Hitch's work and the discussion of them that is the highlight. Extended treatment is given to Vertigo and Psycho (and there is an interesting nugget about The Birds) although most films get only a light touch and many none at all. Occasionally we hear recorded excerpts of the actual tapes (including some rather risquÃ (C) comments that I don't remember in the book!). The take home point is that Truffaut's book helped people to see Hitchcock as an artist who knew how to manipulate audiences with (and even changed) the language of cinema (stemming from his training in the silent days) and also invested many of his personal concerns (and perhaps pathologies) into his films as a true auteur. Although not in the film, a trivia item on imdB.com argues that Truffaut's book (released in 1967) resulted in Hitchcock becoming too self-conscious and therefore never making another good film! (It's an interesting hypothesis but I reckon Frenzy and Family Plot are not too bad). Although I myself would have enjoyed a deeper analysis of each film (with clips), I guess I always have the book to turn to, sitting proudly on my cinema shelf. Still a fun watch if you are a Hitchcock fan!
What could have been a more perceptive discussion about Truffaut's seminal book turns out to be frustratingly superficial instead, moving quickly from one topic to the next without much sense of focus and not managing to offer much insight beyond the most reverential obvious.
It sort of goes into the friendship of Hitchcock and Truffaut, but it spends most of its time with other filmmakers talking about why Hitchcock was such a genius. A highlight was Martin Scorsese talking about Vertigo and the analysis of why Psycho was revolutionary.
If you are a fan of Alfred Hitchcock it is interesting to listen to him and some great directors break down his movies.
The success of documentary is usually based on how much you already know and how much you learn about the main subject of the film. I knew a bit about Hitchcock, but I never dug deep into his archival footage or books written about him to understand the full psychology of the master of suspense. Hitchcock/Truffaut is a fascinating look into several of Hitch's films, and even some of Truffaut's, even if it is a little too short to call it a full exploration. Director Kent Jones gathers several of Hollywood's greatest filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich, and David Fincher, to discuss Hitchcock's influence on the art of cinema and some of his most effective features. These commentators are certainly insightful, but you don't get enough from each of them to get full satisfaction. The film is based around a conversation between Hitchcock and Truffaut that took place in 1962. Truffaut, an up and coming filmmaker at the time, provides the viewer (or reader) a glimpse into what it would be like to interview the legendary filmmaker yourself. In many ways, Truffaut gets to ask all the questions any fan of Hitchcock has always wanted to ask. Whether it's addressing his catholic roots, sexual undertones in many of his features, his transition from silent film to talkies, the dreamlike quality to the films, or his iconic use of "god's eye" camera angles, it's all covered. As a film junkie, this type of coverage on one filmmaker is a dream come true. Again, the one thing I think the film could have improved upon was just giving more of everything and spending even more time on his expansive filmography. Spending a good chunk of time on Vertigo and Psycho was definitely needed, but I would love a more in-depth look at plenty of other films of his as well. However, overall, this documentary is a joy to watch, especially considering it's brilliant filmmakers commenting on Hitchcock, who is one of the greatest.
Simple, albeit effective documentary/love letter to two masters of cinema.
Phenomenal and Outstanding. One of the best Documentaries yet.
I enjoyed listening to Alfred Hitchcock's and Francois Truffaut's own voices discuss the finer points of the art of film, sounding more like cinema scholars than in-the-trenches, working directors. I enjoyed watching all the great directors (particularly Bogdanovich, Scorsese, Schrader, Wes Anderson, and Fincher) weigh in with their takes on the films and ideas featured in "Hitchcock/Truffaut." I also enjoyed the carefully selected clips from the Hitchcock canon. What I didn't enjoy in this documentary was Truffaut and all the modern directors trumpeting what a masterpiece "Vertigo" is.
In my latest Blu-Ray sit-down with "Vertigo" (three and half years ago) I still did not "get" this film. "Hitchcock/Truffaut" convinced me that the problem lies within me and not in "Vertigo" itself. (Note: in 2012 the British Film Institute's "Sight & Sound" critics' poll replaced my beloved "Citizen Kane" with "Vertigo" as the greatest picture ever made.)
So as a direct result of watching "Hitchcock/Truffaut," my goal is to do more homework on "Vertigo,' including re-watching part of this documentary as well as reading the parts of the book "Hitchcock/Truffaut" itself that cover "Vertigo." Perhaps another viewing will be enough to melt through my cinematic blinders so I can finally see what the great film minds of the world have been appreciating all along. I can only hope.