Documentaries are a wide spread genre that span a huge breadth of topics, but the one way to grab my interest every single time is to make a documentary on film. In the past couple years I’ve been spoiled by such films as Jodorowsky’s Dune, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau and at least three more beyond that. So, when I got wind of Kent Jones’ new documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut I got very excited.
No stranger to film documentaries, having done A Letter to Elia in 2010, a chronicling of director Elia Kazan’s career, I knew this material was in the right hands with the longtime Daily Show writer. With interviews with some of the greatest living directors of today, including David Fincher, Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese, this film was an incredible insight into just how much Alfred Hitchcock influences everyone from the time he emerged onto the scene to his lasting effect on film today. There has been and never will be another of his kind, which is also reiterated by these great artists as well.
Detailed in the delivery, the film puts you right in the middle of a week long interview of Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut, one of the founders of French New Wave cinema and a total fan of Alfred Hitchcock. Over the duration of the seven days, the two master directors talk about all of Hitchcock’s work in depth, nothing spared when it comes to comparisons to Truffaut’s own work and what Hitchcock’s reservations and regrets have been about each project.
While the film progresses through Hitchcock’s career, we get each director in the interviews that Kent Jones conducted, speaking of the meaning of every film to them and the umbrella of cinema as a whole. Scorsese talks about the method in which Hitchcock would fill a frame with empty space to give a foreboding sense in The Birds or the high camera angle in many of his films, almost depicting a god like perspective. It’s all deeply interesting to a cinephile like myself.
The reverence felt by all the directors is palpable in every comment they have about the master director but they are able to also address his flaws, mostly dealing with the human side of him away from the camera. Hitchcock never took to siding with an actor, which can be seen as a fault. To him, actors where just another prop in the story and their input never factored into how he made his films. Sure, we got incredible performances from Montgomery Clift, Vera Miles and Henry Fonda but this is all owed to the man behind the scenes, rather than the people delivering it.
It’s interesting to know that after Hitchcock’s death in 1980, Truffaut released an expended edition to the original 1966 publishing, a definite must have for any film lover, definitely something now sitting at the top of my Christmas list. This documentary is fantastically interesting on its base level of listening to two directors, one with an influential idolizing of a master in a colleague capacity and another who just wanted to put pieces of himself on film and it ended up speaking to more than just his generation. As a result, this and all their work are completely timeless. Hitchcock/Truffaut is a sure five out of five.