In the early 1960s two accomplished filmmakers sat down for a candid series of interviews. On one side sat François Truffaut (as opposed to a false foe) who while only having helmed three films was considered a mover and shaker in movie circles. On the other side of the table was Alfred Hitchcock, then in his fifth decade of churning out masterful templates of suspense that are emulated to this day.
To this day the resulting book “Hitchcock by Truffaut: A Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock” is considered a landmark publication on the art of mise-en-scene. Truffaut wrote a heartfelt letter to Hitch with the expressed desire to conduct a weeklong series of all-day interviews, with the dialogue both recorded on audio and written down. Along with the two directors were a sound engineer and a translator.
The film Hitchcock/Truffaut by Kent Jones (himself a film critic, writer and for the last few years the director of the New York Film Festival) fleshes out the spine of the book with archival clips from Hitchcock films. Also propelling the documentary are talking head comments from the cream of the crop of current directors: Martin Scorsese, Arnaud Desplechin, David Fincher, Richard Linklater, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Schrader.
For a cineaste like your humble scribe this doc could have run for four hours and I still couldn’t get enough. Hitchcock/Truffaut runs a mere 80-minutes and in that time encapsulates Hitch’s filmography and defines his skill at combining disparate images to form a whole. Much of the film is devoted to Vertigo (a flop on its original release and now as revered as Citizen Kane) and Psycho. However the Hitchcock buff will gladly recognize the brief sequence in The Birds where Hitch cuts from Tippi Hedren’s reactions shots of gasoline burning in a trail, to the fire, back to Hedren, back to the gas, and then to a God like view from the air as the town explodes and the birds fly into view.
Hitchcock/Truffaut will unwind this weekend at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The engagement will also include a double feature (separate admission for each) with North By Northwest on Friday night and Rear Window on Saturday night.
— Michael Bergeron