Friday, June 19, 2009

Truffaut for Dummies

TCM has been honoring foreign directors on Thursday nights in June as part of their salute to great directors. Last night was the night for François Truffaut, who was one of the driving forces of the French film movement of the late 1950s and 60s known as la nouvelle vague (French for "new vague"). Actually, vague in French means both "vague" and "wave", and it's clearly being used in the latter sense here. But personally, I find the "new wave" movies a bit tedious; they all seem overly talky, and infused with an atmosphere of "change just because we can be different". If you want to watch a more accessible Truffaut movie, you could do much worse than to watch Day For Night (known in French as La nuit américaine).

Truffaut plays a movie director making a not-very-good movie with, among others, an American star (played by Jacqueline Bisset); the movie focuses mostly on the tribulations our poor director goes through while trying to make the movie. It's a French version of one of the many Hollywood looks at Hollywood" movies, albeit from a thoroughly French point of view. But that similar subject material is what makes the movie so easy to follow. The characters seem almost a parody of actors in that they've got every problem known to man, which makes the director wonder if he's even going to be able to get the movie finished. Although these problems, and the accompanying jealousy and back-stabbing among the characters may seem clichéd, that's not a particularly bad thing for Day For Night, as the movie is in part, if not in whole, a comedy.

Even though it's a foreign movie with subtitles, Day For Night is a very easy movie to watch, in no small part because movie buffs will find most of the themes are universal. For people who aren't such big movie fans, the themes should still be humorous, and the subject material much easier than Truffaut's other work. Thankfully, Day For Night has been released to DVD.

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