Film review: HITCHCOCK/ TRUFFAUT, from Built For Speed

The title of the documentary Hitchcock/ Truffaut may lead people to think it is a parallel biopic of both Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut and that it examines in detail the life and work of arguably the 1950’s two most important film-makers. That’s not quite the case as the focus of this documentary is a 1966 meeting between the two directors in which Truffaut interviewed Hitchcock about his film making technique and inspiration. That meeting produced a famous book that was also entitled Hitchcock / Truffaut. The film does reach beyond that meeting to provide additional biographical detail about Hitchcock and some background information about Truffaut but it’s not the comprehensive study of the two men some may have wanted.

The film benefits, however, from interviews with an assortment of modern cinema’s finest directors such as Martin Scorsese, David Fincher and Peter Bogdanovich who discuss Hitchcock’s place within the cinematic pantheon and his filmmaking techniques as they related to such issues as shot construction and editing.

Much of the discussion of Hitch’s films, however, concerns their mood and psychology and the filmmaking methods he used to evoke emotion. Martin Scorsese provides the best insights here and one can only imagine how good a Hitchcock documentary he could make.

The film also touches briefly on an aspect of Hitchcock’s life that has had less attention, his Catholic faith. Watching excerpts from his film reminds us how much they explore Catholic concerns such as guilt and the idea of people concealing sinful aspects of their personality. In Hitchcock’s universe the camera is the probing eye of God exposing people’s misdeeds often with the punishment of death from above. Similarly, the documentary reminds us how full Hitchcock’s films were of sexual imagery and how much repressed sexuality shaped his characters and the tone of his movies. Interestingly, though, no women are interviewed for this film. Also, there’s little mention of Hitch’s reputedly difficult relationship with his leading ladies.

While it provides plenty of fascinating insights as it explores films such as Vertigo, The Birds and Psycho it doesn’t give us a completely clear or comprehensive view of Hitchcock’s filmography. As for Truffaut, there are snippets of his revered films such as The 400 Blows and a very brief discussion of the cinematic revolution he and other nouvelle vague auteurs such as Jean Luc Goddard and Claude Chabrol brought about but not a lot of detail or analysis of his work.

The film has its pitfalls but there’s enough fascinating material here to have cinephiles drooling. Perhaps best of all, though, it captures the great mutual respect and friendship between two of cinema’s greatest artists.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2.

Genre: Documentary.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Kent Jones.

Release date: July 2016.

Running time: 79 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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