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Documentary takes another look at the master of suspense

The documentary "Hitchcock/Truffaut" will screen Wednesday at the Isis Theater in a presentation by Aspen Film.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut,’ presented by Aspen Film

Where: Isis Theater

When: Wednesday, Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: Isis box office

In 1962, French filmmaker Francois Truffaut sat down with the legendary Alfred Hitchcock for a weeklong interview at Universal Studios. They went through Hitchcock’s catalog film by film and spoke for 27 hours about the craft of making movies.

That conversation turned into the influential book “Hitchcock/Truffaut” — still a fixture on the bookshelves of cinephiles — and now is the basis of the documentary film of the same name by critic and New York Film Festival director Kent Jones, which screens today in an Aspen Film presentation at the Isis Theater.

“They have this common mission,” Jones said of the film on Monday, “which is to get Hitchcock taken more seriously and to get cinema taken more seriously.”



When Hitchcock sat down with Truffaut, he was regarded lightly as a commercial entertainer — not necessarily as an artist. Truffaut, who came out of the French New Wave, sought to change that. Their passionate conversation does so, digging into Hitchcock’s mastery of visual storytelling, the way he manipulates time, his rejection of realism (“Logic is dull”) and his use of actors (“All actors are cattle”).

“I tried for a long time to play the audience,” Hitchcock says during a discussion of the long build-up to the murder in “Psycho.” “We’re playing them like an organ.”



“Hitchcock/Truffaut” doesn’t delve much into Hitchcock’s biography and psychology, but instead studies his work intensely as Truffaut’s book did.

“I decided, as I was going back to the book and listening to the tapes, I wanted to make a film about filmmaking,” Jones explained. “That other stuff doesn’t interest me one bit.”

It functions almost as a new edition of Truffaut’s book, crystallizing Hitchcock and Truffaut’s insights on the practice of filmmaking and adding new perspectives from the generations that followed Hitchcock. Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson are among the filmmakers who discuss the genius of Hitchcock here.

Truffaut’s book, argues Scorsese, freed him and his groundbreaking “New Hollywood” generation of auteurs to make unconventional movies and question what constitutes “serious cinema.”

“We became radicalized,” Scorsese says in the film. “It was almost as if someone took a weight off our shoulders and said, ‘OK. We can go.’”

Anderson says he studied the book so intensely he’s destroyed it: “It’s not even a book anymore. It’s a stack of papers. … It’s got a rubber band around it.”

As it has been for countless filmmakers, the book was foundational in Jones’ education. He first read it, he recalled, at age 12 or 13. He was fascinated by the way it shows two masters talking about filmmaking as a practice, not in abstract pronouncements, and more intimately than the way that filmmakers speak about film in interviews with critics.

“Truffaut is not speaking to him as a critic, he’s speaking to him as a filmmaker,” Jones said. “And that makes a huge difference.”

By the time he had the opportunity to make a documentary about Hitchcock and Truffaut’s weeklong conversation, Jones was already familiar with more than 11 hours of audio tapes that had been edited and released in the late 1990s.

“I found them moving and riveting and funny and strikingly different from the book,” Jones said. “The tone is different most of all.”

Of course, there’s an inherent challenge in making a film based on audio tapes. To illustrate the conversations, Jones uses footage from the films in question — including deep dives on “The Birds,” “Vertigo” and “Psycho,” including a granular breakdown of the seven-day, 70-set-up filming of the iconic shower scene — along with home movies of Hitchcock on set, photos, script notes and the long correspondence between the filmmakers that followed the interview.

For lovers of cinema, and of Hitchcock, it’s pure joy.

atravers@aspentimes.com


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Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

 

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Documentary takes another look at the master of suspense

The documentary "Hitchcock/Truffaut" will screen Wednesday at the Isis Theater in a presentation by Aspen Film.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut,’ presented by Aspen Film

Where: Isis Theater

When: Wednesday, Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: Isis box office

In 1962, French filmmaker Francois Truffaut sat down with the legendary Alfred Hitchcock for a weeklong interview at Universal Studios. They went through Hitchcock’s catalog film by film and spoke for 27 hours about the craft of making movies.

That conversation turned into the influential book “Hitchcock/Truffaut” — still a fixture on the bookshelves of cinephiles — and now is the basis of the documentary film of the same name by critic and New York Film Festival director Kent Jones, which screens today in an Aspen Film presentation at the Isis Theater.

“They have this common mission,” Jones said of the film on Monday, “which is to get Hitchcock taken more seriously and to get cinema taken more seriously.”





When Hitchcock sat down with Truffaut, he was regarded lightly as a commercial entertainer — not necessarily as an artist. Truffaut, who came out of the French New Wave, sought to change that. Their passionate conversation does so, digging into Hitchcock’s mastery of visual storytelling, the way he manipulates time, his rejection of realism (“Logic is dull”) and his use of actors (“All actors are cattle”).

“I tried for a long time to play the audience,” Hitchcock says during a discussion of the long build-up to the murder in “Psycho.” “We’re playing them like an organ.”





“Hitchcock/Truffaut” doesn’t delve much into Hitchcock’s biography and psychology, but instead studies his work intensely as Truffaut’s book did.

“I decided, as I was going back to the book and listening to the tapes, I wanted to make a film about filmmaking,” Jones explained. “That other stuff doesn’t interest me one bit.”

It functions almost as a new edition of Truffaut’s book, crystallizing Hitchcock and Truffaut’s insights on the practice of filmmaking and adding new perspectives from the generations that followed Hitchcock. Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson are among the filmmakers who discuss the genius of Hitchcock here.

Truffaut’s book, argues Scorsese, freed him and his groundbreaking “New Hollywood” generation of auteurs to make unconventional movies and question what constitutes “serious cinema.”

“We became radicalized,” Scorsese says in the film. “It was almost as if someone took a weight off our shoulders and said, ‘OK. We can go.’”

Anderson says he studied the book so intensely he’s destroyed it: “It’s not even a book anymore. It’s a stack of papers. … It’s got a rubber band around it.”

As it has been for countless filmmakers, the book was foundational in Jones’ education. He first read it, he recalled, at age 12 or 13. He was fascinated by the way it shows two masters talking about filmmaking as a practice, not in abstract pronouncements, and more intimately than the way that filmmakers speak about film in interviews with critics.

“Truffaut is not speaking to him as a critic, he’s speaking to him as a filmmaker,” Jones said. “And that makes a huge difference.”

By the time he had the opportunity to make a documentary about Hitchcock and Truffaut’s weeklong conversation, Jones was already familiar with more than 11 hours of audio tapes that had been edited and released in the late 1990s.

“I found them moving and riveting and funny and strikingly different from the book,” Jones said. “The tone is different most of all.”

Of course, there’s an inherent challenge in making a film based on audio tapes. To illustrate the conversations, Jones uses footage from the films in question — including deep dives on “The Birds,” “Vertigo” and “Psycho,” including a granular breakdown of the seven-day, 70-set-up filming of the iconic shower scene — along with home movies of Hitchcock on set, photos, script notes and the long correspondence between the filmmakers that followed the interview.

For lovers of cinema, and of Hitchcock, it’s pure joy.

atravers@aspentimes.com


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

 

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User