In 1962 Hitchcock and Truffaut locked themselves away in Hollywood for a week to excavate the secrets behind the mise-en-scène in cinema. Based on the original recordings of this meeting-used to produce the mythical book Hitchcock/Truffaut-this film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time and plummets us into the world of the creator of Psycho, The Birds, and Vertigo. Hitchcock's incredibly modern art is elucidated and explained by today's leading filmmakers: Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Schrader. Written by
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Kathryn Bigelow was asked to speak in this film but she declined saying she was "too shy". See more »
I went to Hollywood with an interpreter, my collaborator, Helen Scott. We stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel and every day we went to Universal Studios and sat down with lavalier microphones around our necks and we talked all day about cinema, even during lunchtime.
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Not the usual kind of biographical stuff about the celebrity's childhood and how he "rose to prominence" before he "fell from grace." In other words it's not an episode of "Biography." The object of attention is the book, "Cinema According to Hitchcock" by an admirer and fellow director Francois Truffaut, published in 1966.
The film is roughly (but only roughly) chronological and the biographical material is limited but covers both Hitchcock and his interviewer. What makes it more interesting than it might be is that Truffaut was about half Hitchcock's age. They came from different traditions -- Hitch from the silents, when everything needed to be spelled out visually, and Truffaut from the French "New Wave" cinema of the early 1960s, when the rules were thrown out the window.
Despite their different styles, they never clash. Truffaut is too good natured for that, and Hitch too distantly polite in his British way. Only once, in the book, not in the film, is there any sign of friction, when Truffaut suggests a different way Hitch might have handled a scene and he replies, "It seems you want me to write for an art house audience." Lots of excerpts from Hitch's movies and several from Truffaut's as well. A good deal of attention is paid to cinematic techniques -- the position of the camera, the lighting, the pattern of the images themselves. Some of the talking heads, and Hitchcock himself, come up with implications that to me seem questionable. I can't manage to convince myself that, while waiting for Kim Novack to emerge fully transformed from the bathroom, Jimmy Stewart is "getting an erection." In fact, I can't imagine Jimmy Stewart getting an erection at all.
I suspect the program might disappoint some viewers who don't want to listen to the interlocutors making polite jokes. (Twice, Hitch is about to tell an anecdote and asks for the recorder to be turned off.) Nothing in the movie is critical of either Truffaut or Hitchock, who became an alcoholic during his last years.
There are photos from the interview and excerpts from the recording, as well as a description of the surprising friendship that developed between the two. I thought it was all fascinating.
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