Contemporary cinephilia places – at times – undue emphasis on the auteur in relation to their work and in relation to the works of others. Intertwined authorship and intertextuality are the two most recurrent approaches in film criticism. As such, it’s easy to rationalize the existence of the Hitchcock/Truffaut: Magnificent Obsessions retrospective at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, given the sheer amount of discourse written on the famous relationship of Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut.
Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers inspired François Truffaut – one of the pioneers of the Nouvelle Vague movement in French cinema – to the point where the latter’s films began emulating the former’s. Truffaut had actually started out making personal films about his childhood (the irreproachable The 400 Blows), but quickly began making thrillers and noir films in ode to his idol.
Truffaut’s films contained some of the same aspects of Hitchcock’s: femme fatales, flawed machismo, and the occasional director cameo (the best of which occurs in The Story of Adele H). However, Truffaut’s thrillers are never as compelling or as aesthetically pleasing as Hitchcock’s.
Thematically, both filmmakers frequently articulated the same oedipal complex and feelings towards women. Hitchcock was famously known for having strong but villainous maternal characters, a character trope that recurs throughout Truffaut’s films as well. While Hitchcock was capable of having strong non-villainous female characters, Truffaut typically characterized women as sinister, manipulative antagonists who deceive the main character. Only a few films overcome this trend: Hitchcock’s excellent The Bride Wore Black (best described as a sort of spiritual predecessor to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill) has Jeanne Moreau seeking revenge on those involved in the accidental death of her husband on their wedding day.
The logical pairing of Hitchcock and Truffaut for a retrospective series works well thematically, and though both filmmakers are well-known, some of their lesser-known works are too frequently eclipsed by the more famous ones, rendering their availability problematic. While certainly films like Vertigo, Rear Window, The 400 Blows and Jules et Jim deserve their appreciation, it is recommended you seek out some of the lesser-known – but in some cases equally great – titles: The Soft Skin on July 17, The Bride Wore Black on July 28, Small Change on July 31, Notorious on August 6, Confidentially Yours on August 7, The Wild Child on August 14, The Birds on August 20, Dial M for Murder (a restored 3D print) on August 21, The Lady Vanishes on September 1, and Marnie on September 3.
TIFF Cinematheque’s retrospective Hitchcock/Truffaut: Magnificent Obsessions runs from July 9 to September 4 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Click any of the titles mentioned in the article for showtimes and admission.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile