There are many, many, many books about films, film makers, film history, etc. out there, and a few of them can even be considered definitive. But very few of them reach the level of Francois Truffaut’s 1966 Le Cinéma selon Alfred Hitchcock, or as it has become known in America, Hitchcock/Truffaut.
In 1962, not long after the release of Vertigo, Truffaut and Hitchcock sat down for a week, and with the aid of a translator discussed the master film maker’s entire body of work up until that point, tackling each film in chronological order. Those discussions were recorded, and it is those recordings which form the basis of Truffaut’s book.
For the newly released documentary, which also goes by the title Hitchcock/Truffaut, writer and director Kent Jones has taken both the recordings and the book as his starting point, and then expanded the discussion to include many contemporary directors as they reflect on Hitchcock, the book, and Hitchcock’s films, and how each has influenced their own work and cinema in general.
Overall, the film does a good job of setting up the context of the discussions, presenting many of the highlights of the book, and providing just enough of the original recordings to give a good sense of what it might have been like to be in the room with these two very different craftsmen as they carried on the discussions. If I had any real critique of the film it would be that it spends more time than I would like on Psycho and Vertigo, whereas I would have liked to have seen and heard more of the discussion and have seen more from some of Hitchcock’s earliest works.
Nonetheless, the film does, for me, accomplish two major goals, which, planned or not, I can’t complain about. First, it makes me want to pull my own copy of the book off the shelf and give it a thorough read, and second, it really makes me want to spend more time exploring Hitch’s films, especially those which I have, up until this point not gotten around to seeing.
In other words, don’t be surprised if, as a result of my watching this doc, you wind up seeing more reviews of the master’s works in the near future.
Here’s the trailer: