Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Day for Night

La Nuit americaine; drama, France, 1973; D: François Truffaut, S: Jacqueline Bisset, François Truffaut,  Jean-Pierre Leaud, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Valentina Cortese, Dani, Nathalie Baye

French director Ferrand is trying to direct a film, drama "Meet Pamela". Actor Alphonse plays a young man who falls in love with Pamela, played by British actress Julie Baker, but Pamela in the story leaves him when she falls in love with his father, played by ageing actor Alexandre. Julie is ironically married to an older doctor in real life. The production has to overcome several difficulties, but the major one occurs when the script-girl dumps Alphonse for a stuntman. The actors is thus depressed, and Julie lands in bed with him. Her relationship with the doctor is strained, and actor Alexandre dies in a car crash, but Ferrand manages to complete the film.

The only film for which he was nominated for an Oscar for best director, winner of an Oscar for best foreign language film and a BAFTA for best film, director and supporting actress Valentina Cortese, "Day for Night" is a loving homage to filmmaking and alongside "Jules and Jim", "The Bride Wore Black" and "Fahrenheit 451" one of Fracois Truffaut's three best films. Constructed as a film-within-a-film, "Day for Night" is a clever, yet simple and elegant metafilm story where Truffaut himself plays the director Ferrand, and his frequent actor Jean-Pierre Leaud the actor in the film, Alphonse. The film is filled with gentle comical situations involving obstacles that the film crew has to overcome (a cat is too scared of the boom microphone to run towards the plate and drink milk for a take; two peasants escorting two donkeys pass by the film set and joke: "Making a movie? If you need stars, we are available!") but the most enduring feature of the film is the analogue links between the film story and the lives of the actors: in the fictional film "Meet Pamela", Julie plays the heroine who leaves her younger lad, played by Alphonse, for the older man, his father, but in real life, Julie is married to a doctor 20 years her senior, yet abandons him to land in bed with Alphonse! Truffaut's light hearted approach is occasionally indeed too light - the "juicy" twist of Julie's affair with Alphonse is underdeveloped and never has the sheer emotional kick it could have had - yet the movie is an unassuming and honest "behind-the-scenes" peak that will make the viewers appreciate films even more since so much effort of the crew is invested into many of them.


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