Hard to believe now, but 50 years ago, Alfred Hitchcock was widely seen as merely a highly successful light entertainer. Film writer Kent Jones’ new documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut recounts the exact moment that began to change. In 1962, French New Wave wunderkind Francois Truffaut instigated a series of conversations with his hero Hitchcock about the older man’s films. The transcriptions, supplemented by film stills arrayed storyboard-style, became a 1966 book that has influenced generations of filmmakers and, not coincidentally, helped reform the critical view of Hitchcock as a groundbreaking auteur.
- Photo courtesy of Philippe Halsman
- On film: Francois Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock
Jones’ cinephile’s-dream doc recaps those long-ago conversations at Universal Studios (which were facilitated by a translator), including charming still photos and liberal doses of original audio. Contemporary directors, such as Martin Scorsese, David Fincher and Oliver Assayas, weigh in on both Hitchcock and the Hitchcock/Truffaut book. The documentary explores how Hitchcock’s films played with the experience of time and privileged plot over character development, and also how he handled actors. Extended consideration is given to Vertigo, which exemplifies Hitchcock’s theme of erotic obsession, and Psycho, which demonstrated both his eagerness to surprise audiences and his willingness to subvert cinematic convention. You might also be pleased to learn that those 1960s conversations created a lifelong bond of friendship between Hitchcock and Truffaut.