François Truffaut – Tirez sur le pianiste AKA Shoot the Pianist (1960)

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A hapless pianist at a jazz club gets caught up with the mob, when his older brother who owes money to them comes to him for help. Eventually, the piano player and his girlfriend become pawns in middle of a dangerous game.

Truffaut first read David Goodis’s novel in the mid-1950s while shooting Les Mistons when his wife Madeleine Morgenstern read it and recommended it to him. He immediately loved the book’s dialogue and poetic tone and showed it to producer Pierre Braunberger, who bought the rights. Truffaut later met Goodis in New York City, where the novelist gave Truffaut a vintage viewfinder from his brief experience as a 2nd Unit Director on a U.S. film. Continue reading

François Truffaut – Domicile conjugal AKA Bed and Board (1970)

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So here he is for the last time, Antoine Doinel, who has grown up like the rest of us and has finally, apparently, found conjugal peace. He has changed a lot along the way. Francois Truffaut first introduced Antoine in “The 400 Blows” (1959), his first feature. The character was roughly based on Truffaut’s own youth and adolescence, when he was the next thing to a juvenile delinquent and prowled the streets of Paris.

“The 400 Blows,” with Godard’s “Breathless” (1960) and Chabrol’s “Le Beau Serge,” inaugurated the French New Wave and changed the face and style of filmmaking almost overnight. But we don’t remember “The 400 Blows” for historical reasons; we remember it because, for many of us, it was our first taste of personal, almost intimate, filmmaking. Continue reading

François Truffaut – Une belle fille comme moi AKA A Gorgeous Bird Like Me (1972)

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François Truffaut’s Une belle fille comme moi is a pitch-black comedy of sexual exploitation in which who’s doing the exploiting and who’s getting exploited is neatly reversed. Camille (Bernadette Lafont) is the subject of a “sociological thesis” on criminal women, being written by Stanislas Prévine (André Dussollier), a hapless professorial type who listens to Camille’s jailhouse confessions with great interest. Camille has had a tough life, it seems, always being desired and exploited by the men she meets, who only want her for sex. Camille, of course, relentlessly turns this state of affairs to her advantage, letting these men take her to bed and have their way with her, while ruthlessly exploiting them in turn, taking their money and plotting various criminal acts surrounding her multiple affairs. Camille is in jail, it seems, for the one crime she actually didn’t commit, but there’s no lack of criminality in this femme fatale. While Stanislas analyzes her in terms of her unhappy childhood and her bad luck in relationships, suggesting various repressed psychological reasons for her bad behavior, Stanislas’ good-girl secretary Hélène (Anne Kreis) asks him to consider the possibility that this girl is just a “tramp.” Continue reading

François Truffaut – Vivement dimanche! AKA AKA Confidentially Yours (1983)

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French director Francois Truffaut’s newest film is a tribute to American film noir. It is based on a 1962 novel by Charles Williams that blends mystery and comedy genres. Jean-Louis Trintignant plays Julien, a real estate agent who finds himself under suspicion for the murder of a friend. When his wife is killed shortly afterwards, Julien goes into hiding.
Barbara (Fanny Ardant), his feisty secretary who secretly loves him despite his penchant for beautiful blondes, volunteers to help clear his name. Donning a trench coat appropriate for the challenge at hand, she sallies forth on her own investigation. She soon discovers confusing clues and meets sinister figures, including a pimp, a movie-house cashier, a priest, and a smooth talking lawyer. Continue reading

François Truffaut – Jules et Jim (1962)

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Hailed as one of the finest films ever made, Jules and Jim charts, over twenty-five years, the relationship between two friends and the object of their mutual obsession. The legendary François Truffaut directs, and Jeanne Moreau stars as the alluring and willful Catherine, whose enigmatic smile and passionate nature lure Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre) into one of cinema’s most captivating romantic triangles. An exuberant and poignant meditation on freedom, loyalty, and the fortitude of love, Jules and Jim was a worldwide smash in 1962 and remains every bit as audacious and entrancing today. Continue reading

François Truffaut – La peau douce AKA The Soft Skin (1964)

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Many of François Truffaut’s film have elements of the autobiographical and The Soft Skin is no exception. Written in collaboration with Jean-Louis Richard, the French director in renowned for having affairs with his leading ladies. Luckily for Truffaut he didn’t suffer the same fate as Jean Desailly does in the film.

On his way to deliver a talk about Balzac in Lisbon, a well-known writer and editor of a literary magazine Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly) meets and is instantly attracted to an air stewardess (Nicole – Françoise Dorléac). Despite seemingly living a happy life with his wife Franca (Nelly Benedetti) and their daughter, he is fascinated by her, and the pair embark on an affair. As Pierre attempts to covertly carry on the affair whilst fulfilling his speaking commitments, relationships become strained both home and away. Continue reading

François Truffaut – La femme d’à côté AKA The Woman Next Door (1981)

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MUCH in the way that a writer of precise, clean, seemingly effortlessly flowing prose can capture one’s attention in an opening paragraph of essential but banal information, Francois Truffaut can draw us immediately into the everyday world of his films, which look familiar but are as foreign to most of us as life among a tribe of aborigines.

The inhabitants of his world are not exotic. No rings in their noses. No lavender-dyed hair. They have no difficulty differentiating reality from fantasy. To all appearances they tend to be commonplace. Yet it is the exhilarating talent of this film maker to be able to define the commonplace in a manner that is not at all commonplace, and thus to find – and appreciate – the mystery within. This is the continuing revelation of each of Mr. Truffaut’s best films, especially of ”Jules and Jim,” ”La Peau Douce,” ”Stolen Kisses” ”The Story of Adele H” and, now, of ”The Woman Next Door,” a love story of almost self-effacing mastery. Continue reading