Star Before Auteur: Hitchcock

The two late filmmakers met for a book in the early 1960s. At the time the French movie director Francois Truffaut was hotter than Hollywood, and Hitch was thought to be a TV star who made entertaining fluff.

Hitch was so famous for comedic horror that he had a TV series and his own theme, recognized around the world. He was not,  however, considered an auteur or artist.

Truffaut saw more and wanted to interview Hitchcock about each of his films. For a week they recorded the audio of their chat, through a translator, and began a lifelong friendship.

A book emerged in 1966, but a film record of their insightful movie self-critiques only comes in 2016, fifty years later!

For those who know only the dark humor of a TV host and his Psycho movie Doppleganger,the revelation may be how many contemporary film directors owe him everything. The smart ones study him, and the dumb ones try to copy him.

That means Brian DePalma is not consulted—though David Fincher and Martin Scorcese are in on the documentary. Put aside the two weird Hitchcock docudramas that featured Anthony Hopkins and Toby Jones.

There is much discussion over the visual impact of Hitch’s images throughout his career from silent to the 1970s era when he was thought to be old hat. Vertigo, Psycho, the Birds, The Confession, The Wrong Man, are consulted.

The film boasts two closing sequences of some length that show the utter genius behind Vertigo and Psycho. Only obliquely do we find psychoanalysis of the Master of Suspense. Interestingly enough he demands Truffaut turn off the tape recorder when he wants to discuss Jesuit influence on his philosophy of crime and punishment—and more surprisingly when he discusses the notion of directing scenes when expects the heroes (Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant) are having erections over their blonde leading ladies.

This is a fascinating movie for aficionados of Hitchcock—or those with more than a passing interest in great movie making.