Film Review – Hitchcock/Truffaut
Film lovers are a varied bunch with the medium being a subjective experience that allows for every opinion to have its own perspective. And while it’s hard to find a movie to objectively agree on, it’s probably equally as hard to objectively disagree that one of the single most important individuals in the history of movies is Alfred Hitchcock. With over fifty feature films to his credit, Hitchcock undeniably helped establish many of the filmmaking techniques still used today in mass. However, despite his remarkable contribution to film for much of his career Hitchcock was merely written off as simply an entertainer, master of the spectacle, and not appreciated as an artist. In 1962, French filmmaker Francois Truffaut sat down with Hitchcock to discuss in a taped interview the entirety of Hitchcock’s career, an overly candid exchange that has since become regarded among other filmmakers as the bible on on making movies.
With the documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut from Kent Jones, the meeting that became the legendary text that it is, is revisited in both archival footage and audio recordings along with interviews from ten of today’s leading directors to essentially show appreciation for this seminal filmmaker. Well made and entertaining, this examination of what took place explores not only why Hitchcock was the master he is considered today, but why the interview between him and Truffaut was significant to Hitchcock’s popular perception. As pointed out in the doc, Hitchcock speaks to Truffaut in a very straightforward and unpretentious manner, discussing everything from his use of overhead shots to his disappointment in Vera Miles getting pregnant and interrupting his use of her as a movie star.
Jones’ use of other directors helps illustrate just how significant Hitchcock was, from David Fincher to James Gray to Martin Scorsese, each extrapolates how effective Hitchcock’s techniques were, unfortunately as another critic and friend, pointed out, there are no women interviewed. Little to no time is spent discussing Hitchcock’s personal life outside of his spotty acknowledgement of his wife’s detrimental contribution to his movies. Instead, most of what’s discussed is the way Hitchcock made movies and the choices he made to tell those stories. Fincher is engaging to watch and listen to as he in a similar unpretentious manner to Hitchcock, discusses the finer points of Hitchcock’s work and the reason his choices remain as vital to movies today.
Most of what’s on display here is filmmakers talking about making films, which really makes this a great companion piece to the significant text this is about. While so much is left out due to the time constraints of the documentary, great moments like Truffaut, discussing Hitchcock’s use of the God-Eye’s view, a camera angle he’s often regarded for, asks Hitchcock if he “accepts the idea of being a Catholic artist.” To which Hitchcock quickly responds, “Go off the record,” accompanied by the sound of a tape recorder being turned off. Candid moments like that help this stand out as not just a filmed version of the book, but also a look at humanity behind the complexity of storytelling.
For anybody that’s not read the book, or even heard of it, Jones’ documentary is a good place to start on discovering what the whole thing is about, as well as getting a trimmed down understanding of what it took to make some of the most beloved and respected movies in history.