A little treat here for cinema fans of all hues: What happened when The Master of Suspense sat down with the Marquis of French New Wave. Documentary magic ensues in Kent Jones film, as this Sunday Indo review attests.
HARD to imagine, perhaps, but a point arrived in Alfred Hitchcock’s career where his studio heft, celebrity brand and prolific turnaround saw him fall out of favour with US critics. He was considered too box office to be an auteur of real scope and vision, something that is of course beyond question today.
Tippi Hedren and her feathered co-stars had just wrapped on The Birds when a superfan in France, adamant that the portly English director’s genius be pondered by wider society, contacted him with a view to recording a week-long series of interviews to be later compiled in book format. The book was released under the title Le Cinéma selon Alfred Hitchcock, later shortened to Hitchcock/Truffaut. Its author was none other than French New Wave goliath François Truffaut.
Truffaut always dabbled in film criticism, and the compendium slowly became a staple of film students and budding directors everywhere following its publication in 1966. Documentarian and cinephile Kent Jones guides us through the intriguing encounter over an affectionate 80 minutes that doubles as a potted history of Hitchcock and his method.
Truffaut – who ranked the Master of Suspense alongside other fatherly mentors Renoir and Rossellini – manages to contain his gushing as an interpreter relays questions to Hitchcock, who in turn slowly enunciates back between cigar puffs. The recording plays over relevant clips from Hitch’s catalogue (Vertigo is a chief point of focus) and a lofty assortment of contemporary directors (Scorsese, Fincher, Linklater, Wes Anderson, Assayas) sing the praise of both men’s oeuvres.
A delight from start to finish.
First Published in the Sunday Independent