For Reel


Day for Night (1973)
March 30, 2016, 4:34 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: François Truffaut
4 Stars
Day for NightA fictional director played by François Truffaut summarizes the practice of filmmaking as follows: “Shooting a movie is like a stagecoach trip: at first you hope for a nice ride, then you just hope to reach your destination.” In Day for Night, the director’s job is perceived as being not just the head of a precariously balanced forced community, but a person who must field a constant onslaught of questions he doesn’t have the answer for. And yet, as maddeningly as Truffaut paints the practice of moviemaking, it is as warm and affectionate as any in Truffaut’s ouevere—by this period of his career, he was an artist unafraid to deal with the overtly sentimental (including 1976’s Small Change and even, a year later, appearing in a significant role in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind). On three occassions throughout the picture,Truffaut cuts to a black-and-white dream sequence in which a young boy steals Citizen Kane advertisements. Later, the same glee is seen when the film’s director receives a shipment of books about filmmaking, serving as a roll call of the most touted filmmakers of North America and Europe. It would be a simplification to suggest that Day for Night is obsessed with quality cinema. It refers to an obsession of the very art of filmmaking, where to be on set—ANY set—is the ultimate goal for a film lover.



Jules and Jim (1962)
January 31, 2016, 4:33 pm
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Director: François Truffaut
5 Stars
Jules and JimIn conversation and in histories of the French New Wave, Jules and Jim is often championed for its playful whimsy, exemplified most iconically by the shot of the three main characters stampeding across a bridge. Imagine a new viewer’s surprise, then, to discover what an anti-romance the film turned out to be, and how pained and despairing the narrative actually is. Design for Living this is not. The early-goings are true to the film’s legacy–Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre) are best friends but polar opposites, two sides of the same coin. The introduction of Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) into their routine seems natural in that she accessorizes their sense of carefree Bohemian living, bringing a mysterious, beautiful face to their content but vacuous lifestyle. When the film moves to the post-war years, however, François Truffaut’s interest turns to not only the narcissism of these characters, but how Catherine’s failure to live up to expectations of the men in her life leads to romantic chaos. Similarly, the filmmaking transitions from rapidly-edited, breathless interludes to something more staid and typical, as if the film itself has grown up with the characters and the more jaded sociopolitical landscape. Truffaut’s famous quote was that the film explores how, “Monogamy is impossible, but the alternative is worse.” Indeed, the romance of the film plays out as an apocalyptic vision of monogamy, just as the traditional values of the pre-war period had become obsolete but not yet substituted by a functional alternative. It is a film about the violence of transition, where shifting expectations inevitably lead to dissatisfaction.



Small Change (1976)
July 18, 2012, 2:08 am
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Director: François Truffaut

One of François Truffaut’s most commercially successful films, Small Change is an often precious, somewhat slight tribute to the resilience of children, encompassing everything from burgeoning sexuality to child abuse. Unlike his landmark The 400 Blows, which pitted a child against a number of adults who failed to understand him, Truffaut is much more optimistic in this later effort – sometimes gratingly so, as in a misjudged soliloquy addressed to the students by their teacher in a late scene. Yet, despite such missteps, the vignettes are both enchanting and identifiable, with Truffaut’s humor being significantly more pronounced than one might expect of him. In the picture’s most lasting episode, a toddler chases a cat out of a window and plummets to the ground unscathed. It’s a nail-biting sequence that culminates with the surreal, a fascinating detour that perhaps houses Truffaut’s central idea – that children are not quite as vulnerable and helpless as adults expect them to be. Sensitive and nostalgic, it’s a film that beautifully details the day-to-day of kids that we only gradually come to know and appreciate.