Kent Jones’ insightful documentary, investigating one of the greatest filmmakers and one of the most influential cinephiles of the 20th century, is a true tribute to the rising art of cinema in the 1960s and its most influential pioneer. The film’s informative and ground-breaking material is sourced from François Truffaut’s eight-day interview with Hitchcock in 1962 – a journalistic enterprise that altered the way cinema was perceived as an art form.
After over a week of interview about Hitchcock’s entire body of work, Truffaut published Hitchcock/Truffaut with the intent of convincing readers of the cinematic richness of the director’s work. Based on the book, the documentary, rather than recounting the events of the interview, seeks to emphasise Hitchcock’s repertoire through Truffaut’s critical lens. As an icon of French New Wave cinema and editor of Cahiers du Cinema, Truffaut’s brilliance as a critic and auteur is aligned with Hitchcock’s passion for pure cinema and significant images, making this documentary a treat for any film buff. In the book, as they run through the filmmaker’s extensive film career, Truffaut asserts that the Hitchcock’s work is a masterclass in the art of filmmaking. He simultaneously tries to rebuff other critics’ assumptions that Hitchcock is merely an entertainer lacking substance.
Jones takes us to the present, where Truffaut’s claims are supported and revered by contemporary filmmakers such as Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Martin Scorcese, Paul Schrader, and James Gray. The piece explores Hitchcock’s seminal works, from Psycho (1960) to Sabotage (1936) to Vertigo (1958), focusing on his eccentric work ethic and cinematic values derived from his background in silent film. Many of the filmmakers note that Hitchcock’s voyeuristic style is a result of his admiration for the pure image of silent cinema. In fact, one of the most poignant and intriguing moments of the documentary follows Truffaut and Hitchcock describing a scene from The 400 Blows. Hitchcock questions the use of dialogue, which takes into account his dreamlike use of imagery. His techniques challenge traditional commercial cinema by being surreal and subversive.
Jones’ documentary is insightful and informative, perhaps lacks a clever approach to a much-studied topic for cinephiles. However, his discussion of the relationship between Truffaut and Hitchcock is fascinating. Truffaut, in his pursuit of an inspirational teacher, was liberated by Hitchcock’s ingenious work, and in return, he sought to free Hitchcock from his reputation as a mere showman.
Hitchcock/Truffaut is released in selected cinemas on 4th March 2016.
Watch the trailer for Hitchcock/Truffaut here: