Hitchcock/Truffaut: Alfred Hitchcock was, for too much time, shoehorned as a genre director, the Master of Suspense, as if that was a minor accomplishment in itself. François Truffaut, along with other French critics, spearheaded a movement to recognize Hitchcock as what he truly was: a truly cinematic director, that made full use of the image to tell his stories.
It is, therefore, very fitting, that Truffaut is the one conducting the interviews collected in this book; not only he is a fan, he is both a film critic and a director (and a great one, at that). Even if Hitchcock simply told stories, that would make a very interesting read, since he is a great anecdote-teller and certainly has many of them to tell.
But the conversation is a rich one, touching on many aspects of filmmaking and holding the views of Hitchcock on many different subjects, such as his views of plausibility of stories Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t believe in it. He says later on that exchange “To insist that a storyteller stick to the facts is just as ridiculous as to demand that a representative painter that he show objects accurately. What’s the ultimate in representative painting? Color photography. (…) We should have total freedom to do as we like, just so long as it’s not dull.”
Needless to say, his explanation of the difference of “surprise” and “suspense” is simple and elegant, hard to argue with. That distinction informs many of his shot size and editing choices, and in part explain why he got his moniker.
However, his obsession for details is the reason why, ultimately, he was likely to be a great director, even if he chose other genre. In his own words, after telling he spent some time teaching an extra on how to eat an apple properly: “Well, we have to do those things; we fill the whole tapestry, and that’s why people often feel they have to see the picture several times to take in all of these details. even if some of them appear to be a waste of effort, they strengthen the picture. That’s why, when these films are reissued several years later, the stand up so well; they’re never out of date.”
The book discusses at length some of his most famous films (as well as his and Truffaut’s favorites), and if there is any complaint that could be made, is that some of those exchanges could be longer and more detailed. However, his whole body of work (over 50 features) is covered, so space, sometimes, comes at a premium. It’s refreshing to see that he is a very severe and outspoken critic of himself, in some cases.
This is a fabulous read for fans of his work in particular and of film in general.