Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hitchcock/film buff heaven: Kent Jones' estimable adaptation: HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT

Unlike the recently-released Israeli documentary, Censored Voices, in which the attempt to bring to visual life some important audio tapes mostly fails to do so, the new documentary HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT, based upon the landmark book in which film directors François Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock met and exchanged, over nearly one week, a wealth of ideas about cinema, the resulting movie, adapted, directed and co-written (with Serge Toubiana) by Kent Jones (shown below), succeeds brilliantly on several levels.

First off, it brings Hitchcock to life again, via his looks, his words, his voice and his movies. This is much more about Alfred than it is about François, which is certainly the way Truffaut wanted it. It was his idea to point out and then herald the artistic greatness in Hitchcock, and to show that this filmmaker was so much more than a mere "entertainer."  His book certainly did this, effectively adding enormous momentum to the already rolling idea that Hitch was the movie master. Mr. Jones has not tried to given us the book visually (it's already a hugely visual experience), but for those of us who've read it he has added some marvelous touches. For those who've yet to peruse it, he will certainly have turned them on to doing so.

TrustMovies had forgotten that Jones was responsible for some of the writing of that fine Martin Scorsese doc, My Voyage to Italy, as well as directing other good ones like Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows and A Letter to Elia. Here, you might say that he updates Truffaut's original by adding some very smart, incisive interview snippets with some of today's finest filmmakers, who tell us what Hitch and his films have meant to them -- from Fincher to Kurosawa (Kiyoshi: Cure), Assayas to Linklater, Anderson to Desplechin, plus Bogdanovich, Scorsese, Schrader and James Gray.

Their comments are smart, useful, entertaining and often on the mark. Here's Bogdanovich on Psycho. "It was the first time that going to the movies was dangerous." (That was certainly my experience, as a 19-year-old at the time of the film's release.) And Linklater: "The world was ready for a film like that. It didn't know it was. But it was."

Intercut with the interviews, of course, are scenes from a number of Hitchcock's films (as well as from a couple of Truffaut's): We see a lot from the now-somewhat-reinstated Marnie (yes, the use of color and psychology), The Birds,  Sabotage and Saboteur, Notorious, and Rope, with most attention paid to Vertigo (above and below) and Psycho. Fincher talks of the guilt that seems to set off Hitch's work, while Schrader notes the fellow's use of fetish objects. And then we get something that the book used in words that is here both audial and visual. The famous interviews come to life on film!

We hear the master's magical voice and see him talking, motioning, joking, even thinking. I am not sure what your average movie-goer will take away from all this, but for us buffs, it's heady stuff indeed. As narrated beautifully by Bob Balaban, the movie is above all enjoyable -- like picking up the book itself, beginning to read, and then being whisked away into the films themselves (including, briefly, The 400 Blows).

Mr. Fincher, especially, makes remarkable points about Hitchcock's astute use of psychology, even if, as per the actors, he did not really allow them to use it in their performances if those performances went contrary to his plan for the film (Montgomery Clift in I Confess, is a prime example of this). Hitchcock/Truffaut is chock-a-block with thoughtful, intelligent ideas. "As Fincher puts it: "Acting is a great part of movie-making, but it is not the only part." Hitchcock puts it a bit differently: 'That's why all actors are cattle."

From Cohen Media Group and running just 80 exhilarating minutes, the documentary opens this coming Wednesday, December 2, in New York City at Film Forum and the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, in Los Angeles on Friday, December 4, at the Landmark NuArt, and in more than a dozen cities in the coming weeks. To view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters, click here and scroll down.

No comments: