HITCHCOCK/ TRUFFAUT | 80 min | NR
Directed by: Kent Jones
Starring: David Fincher, Richard Linklater, Martin Scorsese, James Gray, Wes Anderson, Peter Bogdanovich, Oliver Assayas, Kiyoshi Kurosawa
There have been a few documentaries that have crossed our path in the last few years that feel like necessary viewing for film lovers. CAMERAMAN: THE LIFE AND WORK OF JACK CARDIFF, SIDE BY SIDE, and WE WEREN’T JUST BICYCLE THIEVES are a few of the most recent and essential docos that have indulged us film geeks. We could even plunge further into the sub-genre, exploring works like THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE, JODOROWSKY’S DUNE, LOST IN LA MANCHA and HEARTS OF DARKNESS. Ranking about two steps below the aforementioned films is director Kent Jones’ HITCHCOCK/ TRUFFAUT, a documentary that explores the reach Francois Truffaut’s industry Bible, Cinema According to Hitchcock, has had since its first pressing back in the 60’s. While it’s a pure delight to see well-respected modern auteurs talk about the impact the famed director’s book had on them, it’s a bit of a letdown that we never exactly get to the meat of Jones’ cinematic dish.
Blessedly brisk, Jones doesn’t get hung up on small details. Film clips from both Alfred Hitchcock and Truffaut’s work are married to their commentary about their respective ideologies, aesthetics and techniques. We see their communications spring to life as if we’re spies reading their well-wishing telegrams and fan letters to each other. Jones has amassed an amazing roster of talent to properly speak about the topics: David Fincher, Richard Linklater, Martin Scorsese, James Gray, Wes Anderson, Peter Bogdanovich, Oliver Assayas and Kiyoshi Kurosawa all lend their opinions on the legendary, groundbreaking conversation.
It’s a shame Jones’ documentary couldn’t have been as equally groundbreaking. He looks to capture the bigger picture – but he leaves the portrait only two-thirds painted. We’re taken through the pair’s respective biographies – but chances are, if we’ve bought a ticket to this movie, we already know their history. The sections of the book he focuses on seem arbitrarily chosen. Were those Hitchcock films what yielded the most fruitful conversations with the filmmakers? Possibly, but we’ll never know. Jones also doesn’t shine a light on anything new from the dynamic duo’s original conversation. There are no new audio clips, pictures or juicy gossip nuggets. What’s striking is all that he leaves out. At a certain point, it makes us wonder if we’d be better off poring through the pages of the tome rather than hearing others talk about it.
Alfred Hitchcock talks and Francois Truffaut listens in HITCHCOCK/ TRUFFAUT. Courtesy of Cohen Media Group.
Probably most insulting is the stated notion that modern audiences only react to stories that climax every twenty minutes (ten minutes, if you talk to Joel Silver), or stuff that has explosions and loud action set pieces. Jones chose to set that critique against a clip from THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. I agree some audiences make hits out of the worst movies with terribly average structures, but this is very presumptuous on his part, assuming audiences can’t and don’t like adult dramas and action films. Not only is this pig-headed, but it’s also elitist. That pandering risks alienating some of the audience. This widens the divide between mainstream and highly-stylized art-house cinema when both can co-exist, and even blend rather well (see the works of David Fincher). Heck, I saw THE 400 BLOWS for the first time and loved it in the same year I saw and loved BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA. It’s possible to value both types of films for different reasons!
The bottom line? This film will help fuel book sales. I immediately ordered it from Amazon in order to fill the void the film leaves. Though there’s enough here to entertain cinephiles, most of us will be left craving more. Maybe we’ll find it in Noah Baumbach’s DE PALMA.
HITCHOCK/ TRUFFAUT plays AFI Fest on November 7. It opens in New York on December 2 and in Los Angeles on December 4.