It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
In 1962, film critic and French New Wave director François Truffaut sat down with Alfred Hitchcock to record a week-long interview about Hitchcock’s entire body of work. These sessions beget “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” a book whose raison d'être was to show American critics that they were underestimating the cinematic richness of Hitchcock’s work. At the time, Hitchcock had been deemed a director of entertaining movies, lacking substance and importance. Despite his fifth directing Oscar nod for “Psycho,” Hitchcock was mainly seen as a director for the unwashed masses of general audiences. Truffaut aimed to fix that, and the resulting book is a master class in the fine art of directing, filled with photographs and the Master of Suspense’s candid observations of his oeuvre. Since its first edition published in 1966, “Hitchcock/Truffaut” has been a staple and a fixture of any cinephile’s bookshelf.
Fast-forward to 2015, where film critic and documentarian Kent Jones brings us the movie version of this essential book. Jones’ take on “Hitchcock/Truffaut” is equal parts adaptation, CliffsNotes guide and commentary by a slew of directors influenced by Hitchcock’s work. The film is also a completely entertaining and informative gift to movie lovers, a work constructed with care, humor and insight. Though Hitchcock made his last movie (“Family Plot") 40 years ago, he continues to influence in an almost transparent manner. Hitchcock is in the air that today’s directors breathe, and “Hitchcock/Truffaut” aims to remind us of this fact.
Jones supplements his film clips and interviews with audio from the original 27 hours of interview recordings (17 hours of which are available online). We hear Hitchcock discuss, in directorial terms, movies such as “Sabotage,” “Vertigo” and “The Lodger.” We also hear Truffaut describing a scene from “The 400 Blows” as a follow-up to Hitch’s description of “suspense vs. surprise.” This is one of the most interesting passages in the film, a moment where the interviewer and the subject exchange places, comparing notes as footage of Truffaut’s film plays onscreen. Throughout “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” one gets the feeling that the visual nature of directing forces a filmmaker to deal with his or her obsessions, explicitly or implicitly.
“If you think you can hide your prurient interests as a director, you’re crazy,” says David Fincher, one of several directors testifying before the camera. Fincher marvels at how blatantly Hitchcock expressed his own psychological traumas and aforementioned interests, several of which revolved around fear and sex. The famous story of how Hitchcock’s father had him locked up by Scotland Yard as a child is recounted here, and Hitchcock’s description of Kim Novak’s famous transformation scene in “Vertigo” has a frank sexuality that’s as accurate as it is racy. In James Gray’s opinion, this scene contains “the greatest shot in the history of cinema.”