For the past fifty years, the interview book Hitchcock by French critic-turned-filmmaker François Truffaut has consistently been one of the most famous and influential books published about film. It turned the tide of mainstream critical opinion so that Alfred Hitchcock was canonized as a great artist and not just a successful showman. It inspired later filmmaker-on-filmmaker interview books, like Cameron Crowe and Billy Wilder’s Conversations with Wilder and Steven Soderbergh and Richard Lester’s Getting Away With It. It even inspired a recent parody book, where British comedian and filmmaker Richard Ayoade interviews himself for 300 pages.
Now, another critic-turned-filmmaker, Kent Jones, explores the making of the book and its lasting impact, with his new documentary, Hitchcock/Truffaut. In the half-century since Truffaut’s book was published, Hitchcock’s work has been picked apart, studied, and singled out for praise by countless additional writers and filmmakers. This means that Jones is treading over well-trod territory, but he keeps his film entertaining as he does it. He grabs all sorts of cool clips from across Hitchcock’s vast filmography, and he adds in insights from notoriously chatty celebrity directors, like Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, David Fincher, and Peter Bogdanovich, as well as some unexpected choices, like Richard Linklater and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no women, though).
Jones’s ace in the hole, which distinguishes Hitchcock/Truffaut from other Hitchcock tributes, is the original tape recordings of the interviews Truffaut conducted through a translator. Both filmmakers are genial but slightly nervous, as if they both need to prove their worthiness for entering into this endeavor. More than once Hitchcock asks to stop the tape when Truffaut’s questions probe a little too deeply into the old master’s personal obsessions (and, let’s be frank, perversions).
At a brisk 80 minutes, Hitchcock/Truffaut never threatens to become boring. It also sadly never approaches the depth of the book which ostensibly provides its inspiration. Elements of many different Hitchcock films are touched upon, but only current critical favorites Vertigo and Psycho earn themselves discussions of significant length. Don’t get me wrong, Vertigo and Psycho are great, but Hitchcock made at least ten to fifteen other films just as worthy of in-depth dissection. The Blu-ray and DVD feature deleted sequences digging deeper into Notorious and Rope, but honestly Hitchcock/Truffaut begs to be a miniseries.
Something meatier would have been nice, but there’s no denying that Hitchcock/Truffaut is like sweet, sweet candy for movie buffs. It’s pretty hard to resist.
Hitchcock/Truffaut is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and various VOD platforms.
Justin Remer makes movies, directs music videos, and plays in the bands Duck the Piano Wire and Elastic No-No Band when he is not writing movie reviews. His folk-rock documentary MAKING LOVERS & DOLLARS is currently streaming on Amazon.