Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The 'Soft' self-reflexivity of Truffaut's La Nuit Americaine (Day For Night)
It all seems so bizarre... Critics have often thought that Truffaut's La Nuit Americaine was a minor film. Even though the film won the academy award for best foriegn film in 1973, there is something missing; something not quite right about the film. I believe that I can emphatically say what is not quite right about this film: It is a film that reveals that Truffaut had become what he had so despised in his article," A Certain Tendency in French Cinema." Here he is in this film, playing a film director named, Ferrent, but making an out of date classical mise-en-scene un-new wave highly theatrical film called, Je Vous Presente Pamela. It is so mockingly self-ironic as to not be funny at all- more like pathetic. One of the reasons I believe the film lacks inspiration is that the most undeveloped character within the film is, THE DIRECTOR. Let me say that again, the very reason the film lacks inspiration is that the most underdeveloped character within it is, THE AUTEUR. Truffaut deliberately downplayed the emotional commitment of the director character (perhaps to spare himself any pointed criticism) and in so doing he reduced the director to a simple manager. A person whom people ask what to do next or where should this go. He hid himself within the film and in so doing obscured the purpose of the entire effort. Sure it was mildly interesting to watch the cast and crew (play) with each other, but there is so much more to making a film. In fact, has it not been said that a film doesn't really become a film until it is edited. Directors are sometimes tyrants. They sometimes have affairs with their leading ladies. More often than not they hate their leading ladies (e.g. Polanski and Dunaway) or there is a male cast member with whom they go toe to toe (e.g. Herzog and Kinski). And that Truffaut doesn't even include scenes between himself and his cinematographer (he's worked with some of the best, Coutard, Roeg) or his music composer (he's worked in close collaboration with some of the best, Herrmann, Delerue)- or even show the troubles directors have with producers (most in this film were aimicably resolved- not so in real life) is in a phrase a bunch of romanticized crap. In many ways, Truffaut was revealing what he had become: a hack. He says over and over in the film how he lowers his expectations as a film is being produced up until the point that he just wants the production to be finished in any way possible and this my dear friends is "Hack talk". For if you aren't even inspired during the production of your film, how are you ever going to be inspired during the post-production? So yes, it all seems so bizarre here is one of cinemas greatest champions of the auteur theory making a film about making a film where the director is nothing more than a beleagured "manager" shelpping his way through an uninspired project with little emotion and even less inspiration. Perhaps that's why the George Delerue music plays over those books about, Hitchcock, Godard, Welles, Bresson, Dreyer that Truffaut's character had ordered, he knew who the real auteurs were and that he was losing touch with what he loved the most.