Sunday, 23 August 2015

HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT - Review By Greg Klymkiw - *TIFF 2015 MUST-NOT-SEE*

Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015)
Dir. Kent Jones
Starring: Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher,
Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Olivier Assayas,
Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich, Paul Schrader

Review By Greg Klymkiw

"Hitchcock/Truffaut" was published in 1966 and remains one of the few genuine Holy Bibles on cinema. In 1962, the acclaimed former film critic and French New Wave director Francois (The 400 Blows) Truffaut sat down with Alfred Hitchcock for an entire week to discuss the Great Master's entire filmography in detail.

Though Truffaut is clearly a fan, he's far more than that. His love for Hitchcock as a genuine film artist borders on the rhapsodic, but he's clearly able to talk with the man in the most penetrating detail. Perhaps most importantly, Truffaut brings the skills of both a great film critic and filmmaker to the table and I can think of no better volume to lay bare the inner workings of a brilliant and complex filmmaker like Hitchcock.

Since the original audio recordings and amazing photographs taken during the week-long meeting of minds still exist, one wonders what took so long for anyone to make a feature documentary based on this amazing book. Now that such a film exists, it's with a heavy heart that I must declare what a disappointment Hitchcock/Truffaut, the documentary, is. Director Kent Jones had access to all the aforementioned materials, plus all the gorgeous film clips money could buy and interview subjects like Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Schrader to expand on the materials selected from the historic interviews.

One big problem is that the film can't begin to come close to capturing the sheer importance of this event. Director Jones employs a kind of by-the-numbers chronological approach to the material smattered with illustrative clips from the films and occasional interviews with a whack of contemporary directors. Sure, we certainly get breathless (albeit all-to-brief) moments as to why Hitchcock was so great, but we seldom get the feeling just how important he was to the art of cinema. The movie speeds along like a standard TV-style documentary and few of the interview subjects are allowed enough time to expound on the material in the same manner Truffaut himself did.

No need to slag here with specific finger-pointing, but several of the subjects aren't even worthy to kiss Hitchcock's feet. Their inclusion seems relegated to an ooh and ahh effect - mostly, it would seem, for those too bone-headedly convinced that some of these filmmakers have opinions on the matter (or any matter) worth considering. Thank Christ, Jones didn't shoehorn Christopher Nolan into this thing. He gets points for that.

Some of those who are worthy are given short-shrift. Anyone who has spent any time listening to Peter Bogdanovich in person or in interviews as he waxes eloquent upon Hitchcock knows just how magnificently The Last Picture Show director can discuss both the work and the man. Bogdanovich is a first-rate raconteur and his Hitchcock impersonations are second to none, yet he's barely on-screen. Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Paul Schrader have insightful observations, but we simply don't get enough of them and, fuck it, I'll point one finger and say that the insufferable Olivier Assayas has nothing to say at the best of times - either in person or in his pretentious overrated films, so that his inclusion here is a huge downer.

Happily, we get a few healthy dollops of Martin Scorsese, who comes closest to the insight Truffaut demonstrated in the unexpurgated interviews in the book itself. In fact, Scorsese, with his clinically insane ability to recall individual moments, shot by shot, beat by beat, might actually have had observations to give Truffaut a run for his money. Alas, we still feel hungry for further Scorsese. Less, in this case, is certainly not more.

It's impossible to know what filmmaker Jones tried to accomplish here. It's a hodgepodge and at best feels like an elongated DVD supplement. As such, though, this is somewhat insulting to the truly great DVD supplements we've seen on the Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber labels and occasionally on the Universal and Warner Brothers supplements. The great filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau has created the best - bar none - documentary materials on Spielberg, Hitchcock, DePalma, Polanski, Friedkin and the list goes on and on.

Bouzereau brings a distinctive voice to his work - so much so that one is not only tantalized by the films he focuses upon, but one can identify his work within a minute or two of watching them. As a documentary filmmaker specializing in cinema, he's the real thing, and then some.

Alas, with Hitchcock/Truffaut, I certainly have no sense of who Kent Jones is and perhaps even less than zero a sense of what in hell kind of movie he wanted to make.

By default, mostly because of Scorsese, Jones's film has about 20 genuinely engaging minutes. The rest of it feels like the supplemental materials cobbled together for a lower-drawer DVD release. Given that the movie's running time is only 80 minutes, but feels twice that length because of its dull, ham-fisted structure, one thinks Mr. Jones might best tend to his duties as the Director of Programming for the New York Film Festival. His previous cinema documentaries, most notably his mediocre Val Lewton doc, are equally dull. This one, though, represents some kind of nadir.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *½ One and a Half Stars

Hitchcock/Truffaut plays in the TIFF DOCS section of TIFF 2015.