OP-ROB RATING: ALL-STAR
“Hitchcock/Truffaut” is a 2015 documentary film, readily available on HBO, directed by Kent Jones that details the inception of film director François Truffaut’s 1966 book Hitchcock/Truffaut. The book was essentially the documentation of a series of conversations between Truffaut and Hitchcock. The documentary spends a little time explaining how Truffaut reached out to Hitchcock, seeking to interview him about each and every one of his fifty-plus films and thereby capture the decision making process of the director. But even more, Truffaut wanted to show the world that Hitchcock was one of the great auteurs, thus liberating him from his widespread reputation as merely an entertainer for the masses. Since being published, Hitchcock/Truffaut has become a mainstay on the bookshelf of every film director. “Hitchcock/Truffaut” is the story of the book, and its incredible effect on the movie world.
Purely as a documentary, “Hitchcock/Truffaut” moves very fast. It is accompanied by an intense, zingy violin score that keeps tensions high. Furthermore, the film features dozens of written documents gliding across the screen: letters from Truffaut and Hitchcock, director’s notes, and excerpts from the Hitchcock/Truffaut book. The style of the documentary is like Ken Burns on amphetamines. However, instead of losing impact, the fast pace keeps the subject of the film fresh, and forces the viewer to focus. Aside from the accompanying texts, “Hitchcock/Truffaut” primarily features scenes from Hitchcock films, with a bevy of talking heads commenting on his directorial characteristics. Amongst the interviewees are Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and Richard Linklater.
“Hitchcock/Truffaut” details many different aspects of Hitchcock as a director, one such being his unpopularity among the actors he employed. He could be almost draconian in his direction, never allowing his actors to stray from his own specific vision. While discussing Hitchcock’s often rocky relationships with his actors, David Fincher makes the point that while acting is important, it is merely a single aspect of filmmaking. It is easy to forget that. In a given scene, the actors demand much more attention than things like the angle of the camera, or the lighting of the backdrop. However, in every film these seemingly minor details require just as much decision making as the casting of the characters. “Hitchcock/Truffaut” sheds light on the Hitchcock style, and the layers of decisions that went into it. It also realigns the viewers intake of films in general.
For many of those who see the documentary, “Hitchcock/Truffaut’s” analysis of the famed fetishes that riddled “Vertigo” might be most enjoyable. Others might marvel at the frame-by-frame dissection of the scarring shower scene from “Psycho”. It is indeed remarkable to listen to Hitchcock’s voiceovers explaining his craft. However, in a grander sense, “Hitchcock/Truffaut” struck me in the way it revealed the interconnectedness of film. As Hitchcock says in the documentary, the “power of the cinema” is drawn from its role as “the greatest known mass-medium there is in the world.” For Hitchcock’s films this certainly rings true. “Psycho” is the kind of movie almost everyone sees, and almost everyone is shocked by. However, watching the varying directors who lend their voices to the documentary, you can also see how Hitchcock’s work penetrated even the most disparate filmmakers. In what other context do you bring together the charming, detail-obsessed Wes Anderson and the precise, disturbing David Fincher?
As the film points out, Francois Truffaut’s Hitchcock/Truffaut debunked Hitchcock’s light entertainer reputation and revealed him as a master artist of cinema. “Hitchcock/Truffaut” is a fitting tribute to that revelation, and in the same vein as its subject, makes the ride both entertaining for the masses and the cinephiles. In a world dominated by ten second videos and shallow memes, it is refreshing to take a look back at Alfred Hitchcock as a director who could grab the attention of a vast public with a product that is also revered at the highest levels of cinematic education.