In 1962, burgeoning young filmmaker François Truffaut approached his idol, the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, about sitting down for an extended interview about his attitudes and methodologies towards cinema. Truffaut, a critic as well as a filmmaker, asked all the right questions and Hitchcock affably gave all the right answers, and in 1966, the results were published in the veritable bible of auteur film theory, a simply titled book called Hitchcock/Truffaut. Now, “The Daily Show” writer Kent Jones has turned those conversations into a movie, the also simply titled Hitchcock/Truffaut.
Kent Jones brings Truffaut’s book to life by combining the actual audio tapes of the interview conversations with select clips from films by both Hitchcock and Truffaut that illustrate the concepts that are being discussed. It’s blatantly clear that Truffaut was, more than anything, a big fan of Hitchcock’s movies, so there’s a bit of wonder and awe, but mostly it’s a filmmaker at the beginning of his career learning from one who is at his peak; Truffaut had just wrapped Jules and Jim and Hitchcock was putting the finishing touches on The Birds. Both men lived for – and through – the cinema, and their words are both brilliant and inspiring.
The movie isn’t completely just Hitch and Truffaut shooting the breeze. Interspersed amongst the film school talk is a number of talking head interviews with contemporary directors who have been influenced by Hitchcock, luminaries such as David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, and even Martin Scorsese. The only one of Hitchcock’s disciples who is missing is the most obvious of his imitators; Brian De Palma’s two cents is sorely missed. Still, the insights from today’s biggest and brightest prove that it was not just François Truffaut who worshipped the works of Alfred Hitchcock.
Because of his legendary status, Hitchcock is considered a mainstream director by today’s audiences, and these casual Hitchcock fans will probably be turned off by Hitchcock/Truffaut. Like the book that inspired it, the movie is really meant for film geeks and cinephiles. It’s full of Hitchcock’s philosophies, straight from the horse’s mouth, and how they apply to his movies, with plenty of technical and aesthetic analysis of those movies, but those viewers who are expecting to see a cut-by-cut explanation of the shower scene from Psycho won’t get it. Those who go crazy for mise en scène and those who dork out over camera focal lengths will be in heaven.