In 1966, director François Truffaut published his seminal book Hitchcock/Truffaut. Now quite rightly considered essential reading for any film buff, the book was based on an exchange between Truffaut and the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. The pair spent an entire week in a room at Universal Studios – with a translator – and just talked. About Hitchcock’s work, about Truffaut’s work and about the power of film in general. It was a historic moment in cinema, and now director Kent Jones has crafted a fascinating documentary about this meeting. Or has he? Out now on DVD, this is Hitchcock/Truffaut.
At only approximately 75 minutes, Hitchcock/Truffaut offers a concise look at the work of Alfred Hitchcock but not much time is given to Truffaut. Quite strangely, the documentary doesn’t spend a great deal of time talking about the meeting and the book upon which it is based. I was expecting to learn all about how, when, where and why the pair had their little chat. While this is covered, it is all too brief – and Hitchcock/Truffaut quickly becomes another Hitchcock analysis documentary. Huge portions of the film go by without even a whisper of Truffaut’s name, while we watch scene-after-scene of Vertigo and Psycho analysis. Amazingly, 36 years after Hitch’s death, there is still a lot to say about the work of a man ‘never satisfied with the ordinary’.
Film obsessives will know a lot of the factual information displayed here and may have heard or read the many theories that are thrown around. But Hitchcock/Truffaut is elevated to more than just another Hitch doc by the immense talent on board to share their thoughts. David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader and Wes Anderson (to name but a small handful) discuss Hitch and his impact on cinema, and it’s quite charming to see the utter respect and admiration they have for the great man. This isn’t arse-kissing, this is genuine passion. These people are driving on roads Hitchcock built, and they know it – it’s evident in the childlike wonder in their eyes when they discuss their portly hero. Scorsese in particular, one of Hollywood’s most humble men, is endearing as ever while he reels off a near-encyclopaedic knowledge of Hitchcock’s films.
While this is all wonderfully engrossing for the film buff in me, I can’t help but think this isn’t the film I was sold. Hitchcock/Truffaut does dedicate small portions of the film to playing old recordings of the chats Hitch and Truffaut had, and we do see a lot of photos of the guys and excerpts from the book – but too much time is dedicated to Hitch-analysis that can already be found elsewhere. Other directors reflecting on how Hitchcock has influenced them and how he has impacted cinema on the whole is entertaining, but the marketing – and title – for this film suggested far more Truffaut would be included. We hardly see him and despite a 50/50 split between the two guys in the title, it’s more like an 80/20 split in Hitch’s favour throughout the documentary. Granted, Hitch has a somewhat wider appeal to the casual film-goer – but this isn’t a film for these viewers. It’s a film for the cinephiles out there. Neglecting Truffaut this much seems just a little disrespectful. Why couldn’t we have had a few scenes analysing his works at length?
This film might as well have just been titled Hitchcock, with Truffaut as a side-note. For newcomers to Hitchcock’s work or students of film, Hitchcock/Truffaut is certainly an informative and engrossing look at the great director’s body of work and impact on other directors. But for anyone interested in the iconic interview between Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut should read the timeless book first, then watch a doublebill of Vertigo and The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups), and then watch Hitchcock/Truffaut.
An engrossing and informative documentary but perhaps a little light on Truffaut, Hitchcock/Truffaut still walks away with a solid 4/5.
Hitchcock/Truffaut at CeX
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