Hitchcock/Truffault is a blockbuster documentary designed to draw in film students and Hitchcock fans alike, promising the retelling of the famous week-long interview the director gave to French New Wave luminary Francoise Truffault, as part of the younger director’s efforts to get Hitchcock canonised as a great artist at a time when he was seen as merely a commercial director. The interviews would go on to form Hitchcock/Truffault, one of the classics of Film literature and a mare more rewarding experience than this film which serves as a mere highlight reel of the interview and advertisement of the book.
Clips from the interviews are intercut with classic Hitchcock scenes, and a host of famous directors give their insights into the personal importance and wider meaning of the interview. The exclusively white male faces include David Fincher and Martin Scorsese, who come off well if staid, while Wes Anderson is frustratingly self-serving and Richard Linklater completely struggles to put two thoughts together. James Gray, a director whose work often leaves me cold, nonetheless impresses with an impassioned explanation of why the hotel scene in Vertigo is his favourite in all of cinema. The way director Kent Jones cross cuts this insight with footage from the films is excellent, especially in the section where Hichcock discusses acting and his struggles with Mongomery Clift on I Confess, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen from Every Frame A Painting or any other top tier video essay. I almost long for Tony Zhou’s sense of humour and skillful pacing here.
Truffualt is presented as fawning fanboy, looking up to his unassailable master, when in truth Truffault often took Hichcock to task for his failures. This is part of what makes the book so compelling, in that it is two men on an equal playing field and the older man has to work to keep up and impress the French director, such as one amusing moment in which he brags about his ingenuity in placing a lightbulb in Carey Grant’s glass of milk in Suspicion. The film entirely overlooks, for example, the follow up interviews that Hichcock gave regarding his later works, which leads to some of their most fascinating discussions as Hichcock’s dissatisfaction with the famously problematic Marnie is dissected in detail.
One might argue that the film is still worthwhile, as it draws a light on the book and will inevitably drive sales. But the film’s use of the best quotes, and even in its structural decision to linger on Vertigo and the shower scene of Psycho, surely the most analysed parts of Hitchcock’s career, undermines the depth of detail that the book explores and might make students think they’ve as good as read it, or even worse ‘we might as well just watch the film,’ a decision which could have potential readers missing out on what is a true landmark in Film interviewing and an utterly essential read for fans of cinema.