Fans of classic 20th century Hollywood, British, and French films could easily spend the entire winter holiday season cooped up watching old Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut home videos and be perfectly satisfied. But the time comes when we want to learn more about these two filmmakers, to suss out their philosophies and working methods. That’s where Hitchcock, subtitled “A Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut,” comes in handy.
First published in 1966 and now available in various print and e-editions (an original hardcover sells for more than $1,000), Truffaut’s endlessly influential book examines every film Hitchcock directed in chronological order — redacted from a marathon week-long interview session between the two men, in a bungalow on the Universal lot in 1962. For Truffaut, the Hitchcock Q&A was just as important as one of his own films and required just as much preparation.
However, fans no longer have to rely on turning the pages. Filmmaker Kent Jones’ new documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut essentially covers the same ground as the book, with the added attraction of period footage shot during the interview plus a glorious cavalcade of clips and stills from both directors’ films. The result is something movie lovers will want to return to again and again.
Another thing the doc has over the book is a gallery of testimonials by such modern-day film people as David Fincher (“What I love about Vertigo is that it’s so perverted”); Arnaud Desplechin (“He’s fascinated by what terrifies him, until there is no longer a difference between what makes him tremble with fear, or quiver with love”); Kiyoshi Kurosawa (on the “kiss” in Notorious: “A perfectly demonic shot, no matter how many times you watch it”); and Richard Linklater (“I imagine he just sat alone and these images came to him, and he never questioned it”).
But as usual, Hitch himself is the star of the show. Above all, he remains an enormously appealing personality. Any excuse will do to gaze at a Hitchcock proposition. “I’m never satisfied with the ordinary,” he explains. “I don’t do well with the ordinary.” Take Hitchcock/Truffaut to bed on a winter’s night — all that stress and anxiety is good for you. If the images give you colorful dreams, so much the better. Proclaims the Master of Suspense: “Logic is dull.”