Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Le Caméra Stylo

The first filmmaker I felt like I discovered for myself was François Truffaut. (Satyajit Ray doesn't really count because I grew up with his films on television and in my head since before I can even remember, so I have no recollection of ever "discovering" him).

In my late teens, Truffaut gave me my first taste of auteur cinema, and I've been a director-centered movie watcher ever since. About the same time, I happened upon two amazing books: James Monaco's The New Wave, and Annette Insdorf's Francois Truffaut. They taught me that simply watching films and responding to them intuitively is fine, but when you read what good writers have to say about films, it opens up a world of ideas that you can bring to every other film you watch for the rest of your life.

I pulled them off the shelf today and noticed how frayed they are, inscribed with excited marginalia, streaked with hieroglyphic drawings, and generously paved with highlights and underlines.

I haven't revisited a Truffaut film in several years, and I'm a little nervous that what once seemed revelatory and magical in the flush of my young Doinel years will now seem a bit less so. To be fair to Truffaut, there is a tendency among cinephiles to disparage him at the expense of some other and deservedly more eminent filmmakers, but I wonder if some of that isn't due to the broad renown he achieved that those directors didn't.

I'm pretty confident that my favorites (The 400 Blows, Shoot The Piano Player, The Story Of Adele H., The Wild Child) will remain undimmed by time. About some of the others, I'm not completely sure. I need to risk shattering the movie raptures of my teen years by returning to them to find out.


Blogger Flickhead said...

The short films Les Mistons and Antoine & Collette hold up remarkably well; Confidentially Yours is a lot more fun now than it seemed in 1983; and Day for Night is still excellent.

July 06, 2005 4:44 PM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

I still have a great admiration for Truffaut's films, particularly some of his later works, but I will admit to being a detractor of his later Doinel "relationship films" which I find self-indulgent, ambivalent, and not all that insightful. Even in a fictional film like The Last Metro, Truffaut pours more personal insight into life during the wartime years than in his Doinel alterego (I can almost see Henri Langlois and Simone Signoret smuggling films as an act of resistance to preserve art in their places).

My favorite by far is The Green Room which is quite atypical Truffaut. I also love The Woman Next Door, The Story of Adele H., and Mississippi Mermaid (speaking of which, is the Antonio Banderas/Angelina Jolie vehicle Original Sin considered a remake of this or just wholesale plagiarism of the plot? :) ).

July 06, 2005 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

My favorite Truffaut is The Soft Skin. It should be noted that Mississippi Mermaid and Orginal Sin are both based on the same book, Waltz into Darkness by Cornell Woolrich.

July 07, 2005 12:21 AM  
Blogger girish said...

All these titles are taking me back. The shorts are really good, I saw them when they first came out on DVD. Acquarello, The Green Room is, bafflingly, one of Truffaut's most disliked and misunderstood films. Most people immediately mention how morbid it is, but I think it's very moving and personal. And it's the only Truffaut not on region 1 DVD, I think, other than Such A Gorgeous Kid Like Me, which has never been on video/DVD.

July 07, 2005 7:03 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

I recently re-watched Domicile Conjugal (Bed & Board), which I hadn't seen in many years, and hadn't liked all that much. I realize now that I was way too young to appreciate it back then -- it's an absolutely wonderful film.

July 07, 2005 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Hi Girish: I answered your question at my site. Speaking additionally of Truffaut, I hope that there are no more remakes following the examples of Breathless (story) and The Man who Loved Women.

July 07, 2005 2:15 PM  
Blogger Ed Garrity said...

I found "the 400 blows" interesting but, because I borrowed it during the semester, I had some difficulty staying up to watch it. Mary didn't like it, and I tried going back to it, late at night, but the film required some concentration on my part.

Maybe I'll try and watch it again sometime, especially now that I know it's such an appreciated film.

July 07, 2005 7:38 PM  
Blogger aparajito said...

I greatly admire Francois Truffaut's early works, especially The 400 Blows, and I consider Satyajit Ray to be nothing less than my personal film school, in that he has taught me what cinema can achieve. However, it was still rather interesting to see the two names side by side in your posting. Truffaut, of course, had famously walked out on Pather Panchali muttering 'pad, pad, pad through the paddy fields' and had feigned surprise that anyone should care about a film about Indian peasants. Ray was more charitable, saying that it was Truffaut who gave him the courage to 'use the freeze' (most notably, perhaps, in those final, poignant frames of Charulata), although he was somewhat critical of Truffaut's seminal collection of interviews with Hitchcock: 'What the book fails to achieve,' wrote Ray in a piece later collected in Our Films, Their Films, 'and in failing defeats Truffaut’s main purpose in writing it, is to raise Hitchcock to the eminence of a profound and serious artist.'

March 05, 2007 6:14 PM  

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