The Greatest Story Hitchcock Ever Told

For many of today’s best filmmakers, an indispensable, almost sacred textbook in their libraries is Hitchcock/Truffaut, the book-length account, with elaborate illustrations, of a week-long conversation that took place in 1962. On one side of the table was the peerless master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock. On the other François Truffaut, a young, newly prominent French director who revered Hitchcock’s films.

Poster art for Hitchcock/TruffautTruffaut’s devotion to his subject was manifest from the start. He prepared for the conversations as if he were in pre-production for a major film. Now, 50 years later, we have Hitchcock/Truffaut, the documentary. This superb film, by Kent Jones, adds three more layers to the book’s wisdom: stunningclips from Hitchcock features; audio clips from the original conversations; and comments by contemporary directors.

What is it that generations of filmmakers have prized in Hitchcock’s features? Wes Anderson says it’s Hitchcock’s imagery – ‘the visuals are so graphic and precise’. David Fincher finds Hitchcock’s rigour in ‘his exploration of the underlying psychology’.  Richard Linklater speaks of Hitchcock as a master sculptor of time, expanding or ompressing it quite magically, while Martin Scorsese calls Psycho ‘a film that changed everything’ by setting up certain expectations of how a thriller should play out, then turning them upside down.

Finally, James Gray says of Vertigo, ‘Kim Novak coming out of the bathroom is the single greatest moment in the history of cinema’.  Perhaps not quite, but the greatest part of Hitchcock/Truffaut may well be the passion these filmmakers bring to their discussions of a cinema master. You still have a sense that scene after Hitchcock scene, even shot after shot, remains engraved in their visual – and emotional – memory.

– Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

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