Published on December 22nd, 2014 | by Lucie Pierron0
François Truffaut exhibition at the Cinémathèque from 8th October 2014 – 25th January 2015
“Ultimately, what makes me happy in the cinema is that it gives me the best possible use of time.” François Truffaut.
The cinematography of Bercy gives a retrospective look back in January of 2015 at the film director François Truffaut, a member of the New Wave movement, who died in 1984. The exhibition, through crafted and bold scenography, plunges us into the magical world of the filmmaker through intimate documents, notes, booklets, and excerpts from his films.
Why, thirty years after his death, does the filmmaker remain revered and his work popular in France as well as abroad? “Through the intimacy present in his films,” this exhibition seems to reply.
Indeed, the viewer feels close to the hero, Antoine Doinel, of Quatre-cent coups, but equally close to Truffaut’s own universe, inhabited by the greatest actors of his time (Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Gérard Depardieu). Just as the cinema constituted a refuge for Truffaut, the viewer feels the same sensation when viewing one of his films.
So it is by his sense of aesthetics, by the personality of the director, and by his rapport with theatre, that the public continues to be seduced by the films of this great filmmaker.
The character of Truffaut
Truffaut made his debut in theater in 1953 as a critic. It is with his smashing article A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema, in which he violently attacked the classical writers (Aurenche, Bost and Delannoy) that he made himself known.
He wrote as follows about Stanley Kubrick “A debut in the glitz copying coldly the shots of Ophuls’, and Aldrich’s violence. He then became hired in intellectual trade,” ending with “Kubrick must not abandon the cinema on condition that he film characters that exist, and not ideas that exist only in the drawers of the old writers who believe that cinema is the seventh Art.”
At 22, he became a columnist for The Cahiers du Cinema (a magazine which praised his work a few years later), supported by André Bazin. He visited the French cinematography of Henri Langlois, and became friends with Rohmer, Godard and Chabrol.
For him, critiquing is defined as an intellectual exercise, absolutely necessary to become a good director. To enjoy cinema at face value was not enough.
The Saga of Antoine Doinel
François Truffaut’s career really started with the release of the Quatre-cent Coups in 1959. Some short films preceded this first movie such as les Mistons and la Fuite d’Antoine of which The Quatre-cent Coups are a synthesis.
François Truffaut as a child was a shy schoolboy and a bit neglected by his parents. Adept at truancy, he broke away from compulsory education during the war to attend Pigalle cinema with his friend Robert Lachenay. Looking back with nostalgia at the time, and he testifies “ my first two hundred films, I saw in secrecy, thanks to truancy, or by entering the theatre without paying.”
Inspired by his childhood, he then shapes the character of Antoine Doinel but, he completes him thanks to Jean-Pierre Létaud (who plays on the screen Antoine Doinel) who marks him by his poise and natural air at the time of selection. “ The film became better than the script thanks to him,” affirmed François Truffaut. It is thus the construction on the spot of a character who will be central in Truffaut’s filmography. Indeed, from the foundation, Truffaut was not planning on making a series about Antoine Doinel.
But following the success of the 400 shots, he ventured into building a series around the character of Antoine- first evoking childhood, adolescence and then adulthood, as a veritable sentimental education. In certain aspects incidentally, Antoine Doinel takes the traits of Frédéric Moreau in Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert.
This first film brought him the award for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival, and made him the leader of the New Wave movement.
The Antoine Doinel cycle is very successful: it gives rise to Antoine and Colette (ordered by Pierre Roustang), Baisés Volés, Domicile Conjugale and L’Amour en fuite, published 10 years after the Quatre-cent Coups, which deals with the hero as an adult.
Films that deal with love.
“I want my movies to give the impression of having been filmed with a 100-degree fever.”
The other aspect of his work touches on passionate love in all its forms: threesome (Jules et Jim), lovemaking (La Sirène du Mississippi), revenge (La Mariée était en noire) or devastating love (Le dernier métro). Truffaut portrays touching personalities in various contexts: the common war Jules et Jim and Le dernier métro, various Parisian and provincial newspapers (La Mariée était en noire, La Sirène du Mississippi) or a futuristic world with Fahrenheit 451. Let us note that many films are cinematic adaptations of novels of the time.
“I am in love and I am hurt. Does love hurt?
Yes love causes pain: like great birds of prey, it hovers above us, it pauses and threatens us. But this threat may also be a promise of happiness. You are beautiful Helena, so beautiful that to look at you is painful.
-Yesterday you said it was a joy.
-It’s a joy and an affliction.”
Retorts Catherine Deneuve in La Sirène du Mississippi and Le dernier métro.
A concerned and meticulous filmmaker
The great fear of Truffaut was to not be able to film. Thus, he never revealed his script until it was right at the point to be turned into images. Throughout his life, he stayed in contact with critics, journalists and directors to discuss their work. Meticulous filmmaker adamant about filming locations, he questioned himself continually about his work, comparing it with that of his competitors. His book on the work of Hitchcock is therefore not surprising. Taking advantage of the cancellation of a shooting, he took two years to study the work of this American legend. Le cinéma selon Hitchcock is eventually delete be published in 1966 by Robert Laffont,and constantly reissued. A cult book for movielovers.
Truffaut’s fame is international and the exhibition emphasizes this point. It presents Japanese versions of the Quatre-cent Coups and returns back to the impact of his full-length films.
So it’s an exhibition to see for movie lovers as for neophytes until 25 January 2015.