Friday, August 12, 2016

Hitchcock/Truffaut (Kent Jones, 2015)

If you've never read Hitchcock/Truffaut, the 1966 book of interviews with the Master of Suspense, then you'll get great mileage out of Kent Jones' documentary about the legendary encounter. Like any film geek worth their weight in external hard drives, I read it damn near daily in my formative years. With its copious frame enlargements, mountains of trivia (including a list of all of Hitch's cameos!), and deep insights, it was a drop of water on the desert of film scarcity. And so the documentary had only mild use value for me. I knew the requisite analyses of Vertigo and Psycho were coming. And it's not as if those sections were without deep insights of their own, particularly Scorsese on the necessity of the blandness of the early office scene in Psycho (to give the viewer a sense of security before the shock of dispensing with Marion so early in the film). But damn - how many people interested in this documentary don't know those films to death? How about an exploration of the greatness of Family Plot? Or a test of Truffaut's contention that the worst film of Hitchcock's is more interesting than the best film of Delannoy's by pitting Waltzes from Vienna against This Special Friendship?

Even more problematic is how blandly Jones tells this tale. One of the most useful insights from the Hitchcock/Truffaut book is "ventilating the play," the film director's (usually doomed) attempt to open out a stage play's limited scenery. Most creators of documentaries rely too much on the inherent fascination of their subjects to carry their films. Thus, the filmmakers either neglect to attend to matters of form or resort to dead end attempts to give their subjects some motion. Jones' film betrays all the hoary trademarks of the genre - talking heads, zooms into still images/movie posters, explanatory text, etc. As with so many similar projects, it would have worked just as well as an essay or an illustrated blog post.

Still, Hitchcock/Truffaut is worth a viewing for the portrait of the warm friendship that developed between the two. Hitch knew his films were masterpieces and Truffaut's reaching out to him was the validation he deserved at long last. Most touching of all, then, are the images of the letters they sent to one another in the last decade of Hitch's filmmaking life. They keep up on each other's new films, they ask each other advice, and it all brings a tear to the eye, just like Truffaut's initial request for an interview did to Hitch's.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home