Truffaut: A Look Back

Aug 18, 2010

UPDATE 14OCT2010: It seems that we at Criterion, or at least our subtitles, have gotten caught up in a bit of a controversy with regard to the article that we linked to here. Some sharp readers noticed striking similarities between portions of this previously published Truffaut interview, dated 1984 and posted by Richard Brody on his New Yorker blog on August 16, and archival interview supplements included on our The Adventures of Antoine Doinel release. Brody’s detailed explanations are posted here and here.

Richard Brody has posted, on his New Yorker blog the Front Row, “Alter Ego, Autobiography, and Auteurism: François Truffaut’s Last Interview,” an invigorating, meaty dialogue from May 1984 (the director died from brain cancer only five months later). He does so with permission from the interviewer, critic Bert Cardullo, and from Gary Morris, editor of Action! Interviews with Directors from Classical Hollywood to Contemporary Iran, the anthology that is the only place the piece appeared previously. In the interview, the French New Wave pioneer ruminates mostly on the beginnings of his career as a movie obsessive and critic, and on his Antoine Doinel cycle, from The 400 Blows to Love on the Run.

There are some choice quotes about Truffaut’s favorite directors (“I think Renoir is the only filmmaker who’s practically infallible, who has never made a mistake on film. And I think if he never made mistakes, it’s because he always found solutions based on simplicity”) and some of the films that had an impact on his career, such as Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero (“This was the first time in the cinema that children were portrayed as the center of gravity, while the atmosphere around them is the one that’s frivolous”); some New Wave–demystifying moments (“It never occurred to me to revolutionize the cinema or to express myself differently from previous filmmakers. I always thought that the cinema was just fine, except for the fact that it lacked sincerity”); and some behind-the-scenes revelations (the famously gritty 400 Blows was “shot almost entirely without sound. It was dubbed afterwards, except for one scene, where the psychologist questions Antoine”).