Denser and deeper, Truffaut took risks
|Truffaut Filming Fahrenheit 451|
miscues in a fabled career. I hope she can be persuaded to take another major role soon. Part of the problem was that Truffaut wasn’t comfortable working in English at that time and he couldn’t find any charm in the material.
|Jeanne Moreau and Jean-Claude Brialy in The Bride Wore Black|
|Jean-Pierre Léaud and Claude Jade in Stolen Kisses|
|Truffaut's Period Piece Two English Girls…and Dexter|
The two English – actually Welsh – girls are sisters and the older one sort of pushes her younger sister at Claude Roc, again played by Jean-Pierre Léaud. He’s a model of restraint in the part and matures onscreen. Kika Markham and Stacey Tendeter are lovely as the sisters, but there isn’t the giddiness or seriousness of Jules and Jim. I kept thinking, “Oh get on with it,” and after a number of developments, some of them tragic, there is a love scene that is jaw dropping. Many directors wrote in sex scenes requiring actresses to bare all in the late ‘60s through the late ‘70s, but this scene has it all: passion, miscommunication, anger, despair, and a hard-won understanding. It’s a moment of revelation, but also an epiphany that puts it in the early Modernist tradition.
Day for Night (La Nuit Americaine 1973) won Truffaut the Best Foreign Language film Oscar and it’s about a crew making an upper-class romantic melodrama called Meet Pamela that’s nothing like his actual movies. It may be Truffaut’s strongest statement about the emotional and physical craziness for collaborators to create art. Truffaut plays the director and metaphysically bridges the gap between his autobiography and Antoine Doinel’s inability to find a fulfilling calling. If Doinel had Truffaut’s artistic gifts at an early age, he would be Jean-Pierre Léaud’s character Alphone, the talented actor who’s also a spoiled brat.
|Jacqueline Bisset and Truffaut|
His great colleague as a critic and movie director, Jean-Luc Godard, thought it was a lie because Truffaut’s character doesn’t have an affair while the other characters do. Truffaut replied with a twenty-page letter and never saw him again. Regardless of which opinion is more compelling, I’d rather watch a couple of Truffaut’s films than a couple of Godard’s.
The Story of Adèle H. starring a nineteen year-old Isabelle Adjani in an overwhelming performance as a desperate romantic – we’d call her a stalker nowadays – who sacrifices her sanity and even her identity in her quest for the British officer that left her. Though a historical costume story, it is intimate and completely focused on her. This is compelling from the first scene like Jules and Jim because of its energy, rather than displaying, the steady build-up and stateliness of Two English Girls. It feels like a fever dream and, although Adèle is Victor Hugo’s daughter, the character and story feel more like the crazy passion of Emily Brontë than the other movies based on her work. At multiple points in the plot, it’s almost as if Adèle can’t fall any further, but she does.
And after that hat trick of emotional laceration, but polished surfaces, Truffaut re-examined the conventional . . .