May Highlights on TCM
In partnership with The Film Foundation, Turner Classic Movies is proud to bring you this exclusive monthly column by iconic film director and classic movie lover Martin Scorsese.
TRUFFAUT ON SCREEN (May 31, 8pm) François Truffaut had a transformative effect on cinema, on multiple levels. He and Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Claude Chabrol and others re-oriented the way we actually looked at the art form, first as critics for Cahiers du Cinéma and then as the filmmakers who together comprised the Nouvelle Vague...or, as it was known on this side of the Atlantic, the French New Wave (the New Wave filmmakers who lived on the Right Bank of the Seine--Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, Jacques Demy and my old friend Agnès Varda, who just passed away--took different routes into filmmaking). The freedom of his filmmaking was remarkable to me and my friends when we were starting to make our own movies, and to say that he was an inspiration is putting it mildly. After he had become an internationally established (and extremely prolific) director, he sat down with Alfred Hitchcock for a series of interviews that he shaped into one of the few truly essential books on filmmaking, Hitchcock Truffaut. (A few years later, he spent almost as much time completing a book on Jean Renoir, which Truffaut's mentor André Bazin had been working on at the time of his death). As a public figure, Truffaut stood up for the cinema whenever and wherever it really counted, and he publicly championed the work of beginning filmmakers like Philippe Garrel and Maurice Pialat. And, on four occasions, he acted in movies--three of his performances (as opposed to cameo roles) were in his own pictures and one was for Steven Spielberg in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's interesting to consider the history of directors who step into acting. I don't mean artists like Chaplin or Welles or Cassavetes, who started as performers, but directors who began acting as an extension of their work as filmmakers. I think this was the way it happened for Renoir, and the same could be said of Fassbinder or Chantal Akerman. I'm glad that TCM is devoting an evening to three of Truffaut's four fascinating performances. In each case, he played a character in nonstop, single-minded forward motion, in the grip of an obsession, a vision--really, a series of variations on his own life as a filmmaker. In Close Encounters, he plays the scientist who stops at nothing until he has fulfilled a plan to make contact with alien life forms. In The Green Room, which is based on stories by Henry James, the obsession is something quite odd and disturbing: total communion with the dead. In The Wild Child, which is not being shown, it's making a civilized young man out of a boy who grew up alone in the wild. And in Day for Night, it's filmmaking itself. Near the end of his sadly short life, Truffaut remarked that making a film is like entering a fugue state. He was absolutely right, and that is precisely the energy and outlook he embodies in his beautiful performance as the director of the film within the film and in his direction of the film itself.
by Martin Scorsese