François Truffaut and Jean Renoir
I saw my first 200 films on the sly, playing hooky and slipping into the movie house without paying—through the emergency exit or the washroom window—or by taking advantage of my parents’ going out for an evening (I had to be in bed, pretending to be asleep, when they came home). I paid for these pleasures with stomach aches, cramps, nervous headaches and guilty feelings, which only heightened the emotions evoked by the films.
Happy birthday Truffaut.
Today would have been François Truffaut’s eightieth birthday; he was born on Feb. 6, 1932, and he died at fifty-two-years-old, on Oct. 21, 1984, during a period of renewed vigor for the French New Wave (following the 1981 election of François Mitterrand as President of France). Truffaut had been busy throughout the seventies—largely due to American financing and enthusiasm for his work; then he had a great success in France with “The Last Metro,” which came out in 1980 (it will be at Film Society of Lincoln Center on Feb. 21). Much has been made about Truffaut’s dispute with Jean-Luc Godard (including by me, in the magazine), who, in 1973, had in effect accused Truffaut of selling out; but (as Antoine de Baecque and Serge Toubiana make clear in their biography of Truffaut) the success of “The Last Metro” induced others to make the same unjustified charge.
Godard was right to suggest that Truffaut found in the world of the cinema the kind of family that he had lacked in his youth—but he was wrong to suggest that Truffaut instrumentalized the cinema in order to create it and to shelter himself within it. Rather, Truffaut’s experience of the cinema-family was essentially documentary: he found it in the process of his work and then reflected it back into his films. Yet the movies in which he did so most overtly (like “Day for Night”) weren’t necessarily the ones in which he did so most profoundly—the tension between Truffaut’s public and private cinema was greater (and led to greater misunderstanding) than it was for other French filmmakers of his generation.
Speaking at the American Film Institute in 1979, he called his first feature, “The 400 Blows,” “rather intimate—and so, in a certain sense, I didn’t need that much craft to realize it.” Increasingly, as he sought to reflect his experiences in a more symbolic (though no less personal) form. He needed craft, as he says in this clip, and he turned to Alfred Hitchcock, both cinematically and personally, in order to learn it. Read rest of article here.