Probably the most studied filmmakers of all time (with reason), Alfred Hitchcock was never shy to reveal his secrets, as long as you asked the right questions. In 1966, the arguably just as talented French director Francois Truffaut published a book with a series of conversations he had with the master of suspense four years before.
The result, “Hitchcock/Truffaut”, became an essential text for every wannabe filmmaker. People like a Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater swear by it. Besides a fascinating breakdown of the cinematographic language, the book reveals how obsessions can drive a director’s career and how this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut focuses exclusively on the text and how it came to happen. It’s as scholarly as it sounds, but director Kent Jones uses every tool available to keep things interesting. Besides testimonies from many contemporary auteurs singing the book’s praises, Jones matches classic Hitchcock scenes with the corresponding insight. Instead of robbing Hitch’s films from their mystic, the documentary shows the mind of a genius at work.
Equally captivating is the contrast between Truffaut and Hitchcock directorial style. While Truffaut -the poster-boy of the Nouvelle Vague- believed in collaboration (particularly from his actors) and didn’t plan every detail in advance. Hitch was –of course- a formalist, a veritable clockmaker for whom performers are glorified pieces.
Even though the film demands more of its audience next to an average documentary, the journey is filled with small rewards, particularly the dissection of the psychologically complex Vertigo and Psycho. Hitchcock/Truffaut is a cinephile’s delight. Three and a half brainy prairie dogs.
Hitchcock/Truffaut is playing at the RPL Theatre until Sunday 21st.