Like Night and Day


Lest complaining at length about Fangoria’s editing of an article I had a hand in makes me seem the obstreperous type (it certainly gave F-bomb conniptions to one staff member on Twitter), I should mention that most of the experiences I’ve had with editors has been extremely productive. Shadowplay itself would be a lot better if it had a full-time editor. The pieces with the typos are the ones Fiona hasn’t had a chance to read before I hit the PUBLISH button. The pieces that trail off into nonsense are the ones even I couldn’t be bothered to re-read. Editors don’t just perform a necessary function, like garlic presses or elbows, they are inspirational creative midwives.

In particular, the folks at Criterion are a constant pleasure to work for. So I take further pleasure in announcing the imminent publication of a new Blu-ray of DAY FOR NIGHT, for which I have contributed an essay. This was a fascinating job as I hadn’t seen the film in some time, and I wanted to see if there was a path between youthful enchantment — Truffaut was one of my earliest love affairs with subtitled films — and later cynicism — there are plenty of examples of Truffaut behaving badly or saying dickish things or making substandard movies. Hopefully I found a way to slide between starry-eyed and smart-ass.

25 Responses to “Like Night and Day”

  1. ‘Between Starry Eyed & Smart Ass’ , the title of your forthcoming autobiography surely!

  2. “Day for Night”, I adore that movie more than I should. “THROW THE CAT”

  3. James S Says:

    I think the scene where the director receives the film books, and they’re all filmed in loving referential close up is one of the best evocations of cinephilia in film.

  4. And they get their own love theme. I talk a lot about the use of music… I don’t know anything about music but I know a bit about music spotting.

  5. I’ll give a shout-out to Danny Kasman if that’s okay — an editor who taught me to shed a few fatally bad writing habits. The man has vision. Read the Notebook at MUBI, mooks!

  6. I came to Truffaut kind of late, in my twenties, and I haven’t wanted to revisit The 400 Blows, since it might not hit me as hard now. The older I get the more I see Kael’s point about watching movies once. Not that I can take her advice where my favorite films are concerned… Anyhow, Truffaut seems… “fragile”?

  7. Kasman is a star.

    Fragile isn’t a problem. Call it delicate. I still think his best stuff is unassailable: L’Enfant Sauvage, the first three films, Day for Night. And I love The Green Room. Truffaut goes morbid!

  8. Ok, I’ll check those. See, I’ve been stuck on the pre-auteur guys forever.

  9. James S Says:

    I’d also put in a good word for “Two English Girls” which seems to hit harder as I gets older. It’s odd how inthe early 70s Truffaut seemed to alternate between a very good one and…a not so great one. It’s not even ‘one for you, one for me’

    Good article here by Andrew Klevan that helped me appreciate “Soft Skin”

    Nic Roeg gets very passionate about Fahrenheit 451. I remember an interview where he protested that the characters’ stilted delivery was nothing to do with Truffaut’s problems with English, but a deliberate attempt to convey a sterile world without literature. Which seems pretty ballsy, if not particularly easy to watch

  10. That movie is half excellent, I think, but the weak bits are… quite weak. The snow at the end saves it. Happy accident!

    I only watch 2EG once and didn’t care for it, but I should see it again, definitely.

  11. henryholland666 Says:

    Speaking of the French New Wave as we are, I saw Godard’s “Bande a part” (aka “Band of Outsiders”) recently. I have to say, my FF button got a workout, even though it only lasts about 100 minutes. No, Mr. Godard, I don’t find characters in a movie having a silence contest interesting.

    Part of the problem I had was I’ve been totally immersed in the TCM Film Noir series, I’ve watched a bunch of movies I haven’t seen before. After seeing terrific stuff like “99 River Street”, “Where Danger Lives” and especially “Too Late For Tears” around the same time, Godard’s movie just seemed like a pale imitation of classic American noirs.

    Plus, it has one of my least favorite things that can happen in a movie: a shootout where Character A fires 20 shots from about 20 yards away from their human target and couldn’t hit the ocean from the end of a pier (the hapless Arthur) but Character B (Arthur’s uncle) fires once or twice and instantly kills Character A.

    Still, TCM is showing “Alphaville”, I have that scheduled to watch. They’re also having a Robert Bresson festival at the end of September, really looking forward to it as I’ve not seen any of the movies in it yet.

  12. Godard’s genre movies are really anti-genre, the pleasures they offer are pretty far removed from those you’d get in an actual thriller or scifi film. I like Alphaville and Band A Parte but they don’t behave as expected.

    I actually like the idea of bizarre gunfights like that — as long as they don’t turn out conveniently for the heroes. I like the inept shooting in Dead Man and especially a little film called Kicked in the Head which fires off John Woo level amounts of amo — and nobody ever hits anything.

  13. Godard has PLASTICITY!

  14. So does Varda. Truffaut? Does he even know what plasticity is?

  15. I mean, Goodbye to Language may be the most exhaustive exploration of the motion picture as a plastic art ever created — and on DIGITAL!

  16. henryholland666 Says:

    Part of the problem for me is I spent the first 15 years of my life on military bases. My Dad, as I noted in the Scientology comments loves him some guns so I’m pretty familiar with guns and shooting things to smithereens. I get that it’s a hoary movie cliche, the wanna be tough guy who is actually awful at being a tough guy not being able to even ding someone in the leg while shooting from a distance of ten feet, but it’s just ludicrous to me.

    My favorite example is at the end of the Heflin/Ford “3:10 to Yuma” where Heflin has Ford’s gunsels trapped in an alley, he has a clear shot from a nearby window and…..misses them completely but he somehow manages to take out Ford’s #1 guy with one shot from inside a moving train while the #1 guy is running. [rolls eyes]

  17. This is the movie that completely ended it between Frienemies Godard and Truffaut, because Godard accused Truffaut of casting Jackie Bissett because he wanted to nail her.

    Utterly disgusting on two counts.

    1) Jackie is a superb actress and ideal for the role and

    2) Directors making a play for their leading ladies is scarcely unusual. Consider for instance J-L G and Marina Vlady. And let’s not forget Myriam Roussel who J-L G hoped to make a star.

  18. Strictly speaking, Godard accused Truffaut of being dishonest by not showing his director character sleeping with his leading lady. Truffaut was, in Chabrol’s words, an “insatiable womanizer” and did frequently have affairs with actresses in his films.

    It was more than a little tactless of JLG to include this criticism in a letter asking for money for his next film, though.

  19. “Jules et Jim” is a big film for me. I rarely watch it now, and I’m not sure I care much about anything that happens after the first half an hour or so, but when I first saw it by accident (late night on Channel 4 maybe) it was a properly mind-expanding experience. Up till then I was basically a Star Wars/Jaws/horror movies sort of person.

    I didn’t know people were allowed to make films like Jules et Jim. It’s got oodles of direct authorial personality. Like it’s hand-written. It felt almost punk rock to my teenage eyes. My viewing habits changed overnight. Not much else has had the same earth-shaking effect since. Maybe “A Man Escaped”. Perhaps “Miracle of Morgan’s Creek”, Maybe George Kuchar’s “I, An Actress”! And like everybody else, I really liked “Mad Max 4”.

  20. Truffaut can’t make a wrong step in those first three films. In Shoot the Piano Player, the joke cutaway of the old lady having a heart attack (which feels like something from a Richard Lester movie), followed just minutes later by that heartbreaking slide down the ice– who would do that? Isn’t it just a cheap joke? Why doesn’t it yank you out of the movie and spoil everything that follows? But I think it intensifies everything.

  21. Lester was very much influenced by the nouvelle vague, and Truffaut was his man. Everything up until Fahrenheit 451, which disappointed him hugely.

    That gag shows what Tashlin knew: you can get away with demolishing the reality of the film IF the audience is enjoying it so far, and if your demolition is entertaining. The Roger Rabbit rule: “Only if it’s funny.”

    Gilliam adapted the gag in Jabberwocky: “How’s your father?” “Fine.” Cut to old guy keeling over. Cut back.

    And then he adapted his adaptation for Baron Munchausen. “The city is in no immediate danger.” Cut to city is immediate danger. Cut back.

  22. Sorry to keep harping. But (quietly this time) “What about plasticity?”

  23. Thought: Perhaps the word “auteur” was unconsciously prescriptive. “Author” means you ain’t gotta treat cinema as a plastic art anymore. A convenient way to slice Epstein &Co. out of the picture?

  24. “Artist” would have been a hell of a lot better, and wouldn’t have cheesed off the screenwriters so much.

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