Friday, April 18, 2014

Day for Night

Directed by Francois Truffaut and written by Truffaut, Suzanne Schiffman, and Jean-Louis Richard, La nuit americaine (Day for Night) is the story about a filmmaker trying to make a film where a lot of things go wrong. With Truffaut playing the director, it’s a film that chronicles the turbulent world of filmmaking and what goes on during a film production. Also starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, Jacqueline Bissett, Valentina Cortese, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Dani, Nathalie Baye, Jean Champion, and Alexandra Stewart. La nuit americaine is a whimsical and engaging film about the world of filmmaking.

The film is about a filmmaker, his actors, and his crew trying to make a film called Meet Pamela where the director Ferrand learns he only has seven-weeks to shoot the film while his leading English actress has not arrived on set due to her melancholic state. Adding to the chaos is an aging diva who boozes up as she can’t remember her lines while her co-star is a former lover while one of her younger co-stars is dealing with his girlfriend’s infatuation with other crew members. It’s a film that explores a filmmaker trying to make this romantic love-triangle with all of the pressures that goes on as it relates to funding and all sorts of things. All of which is told in a very whimsical manner where Francois Truffaut pokes fun at the world of the studio system but also pays homage to it as the film is also a tribute to cinema itself.

The film’s screenplay has a lot of jokes that relates to cinema where Truffaut even pokes fun at himself as some of the characters he creates are composites of some of his collaborators and actors he worked with. Yet, Truffaut treats them as real people as the aging actor Alexander (Jean-Pierre Aumont) tries to keep things calm and be professional as he often takes trips to the airport. The aging diva Severine (Valentina Cortese) deals with aging as she has a hard time remembering her lines while reflecting on the days when she and Alexander made films in Hollywood. The young actor Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is a variation of the many characters that Leaud had played in Truffaut’s films as he’s hung up on his girlfriend Liliane (Dani) who gets hired as a script girl as she is more interested in other men. Then there’s the young English leading lady Julie Baker (Jacqueline Bissett) who has just got married to an older man (David Markham) yet is still reeling from depression.

It all plays to the craziness that goes on as Ferrand and his producer Bertrand (Jean Champion) try to make sure that things don’t go wrong as crew members start to sleep around and do crazy things. It plays into the sense of pressure that goes on as Julie is uninsured in case things go wrong as Ferrand just tries to film while he would have recurring dreams featuring a kid. The script also has a lot of commentaries about film itself and what it means to people as it adds to the sense of reality and fiction blurring.

Truffaut’s direction is quite stylish for not just the way he presents the film-within-a-film in Meet Pamela but also in the realness that he creates when he’s trying to make a film as if there is a bit of a cinema verite feel to it. Much of the direction about Ferrand making the film has a lot of style from wide shots to display a crew shooting where there’s some elaborate crane shots to some close-ups that are on display for the film. The scenes for Meet Pamela is presented as a typical melodrama with a lot of cinematic references to some of films that Truffaut has made in some of the visuals. There is a lot of humor that goes on but it’s very subtle as it doesn’t go too far into whimsy.

There’s also moments where there’s an idea where the fourth wall might be broken as there’s a famous scene where a woman who is shown often in the background as she finally states her opinion about cinema. Even as the film’s American title relates to what filmmakers do to shoot scenes in the day for nighttime scenes as it plays to some of the absurdity of cinema as there’s a famous scene of two crew members watching a game show where the questions relates to films that starred Jeanne Moreau. Overall, Truffaut creates a very exciting and funny film about cinema and a man trying to make something cinematic.

Cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its unique approach to lighting as well as displaying some tricks into how some of the film‘s interiors are lit for the film-within-a-film sequences. Editors Martine Barraque and Yann Dedet do fantastic work with the editing as it includes some montages and jump-cuts as it plays to the film‘s humor and some of its melancholia. Production designer Damien LanFranchi does brilliant work with the set pieces as well as the way sets are displayed as well some of the offices and hotel rooms the crew and actors stay in.

Costume designer Monique Dury does wonderful work with the costumes from the stylish clothes that Julie and Severine wear to the some of the costumes the actors wear for the film-within-a-film. The sound work of Rene Levert and Harrik Maury is terrific for its sound from the way sound is created on set to the recording of the characters in the film-within-a-film. The film’s music by Georges Delerue is amazing for its very soaring and upbeat score that plays into the humor along with some somber pieces that includes a cut that he did in Two English Girls.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable appearances from author Graham Greene as an English insurer, Christophe Vesque as the boy in Ferrand’s dream, Xavier Saint-Macary as Alexander’s companion, David Markham as Julie’s much-older husband, Zenaide Rossi as crewmember’s wife who is always on set, Nike Arrighi as the makeup girl Odile, and Bernard Menez as the prop man who is frustrated by some of the film’s troubles. Nathalie Baye is wonderful as Ferrand’s assistant director Joelle who tries to keep things organized while Jean Champion is terrific as the film’s producer who tries to get everything intact while being the one to accompany Julie when she arrives. Dani is terrific as Alphonse’s girlfriend Liliane who enjoys being on set while flirting with other men. Alexandra Stewart is excellent as the secondary actress Stacey who arrives to the set where Ferrand and his crew make a major discovery that would cause more trouble for the production.

Francois Truffaut is amazing in playing Ferrand where he’s sort of playing himself as a filmmaker trying to get the production going while dealing with all of the troubles that happens. Jean-Pierre Aumont is great as the aging actor Alexander who tries to ensure that things go well while being the most professional despite his frequent trips to the airport. Jacqueline Bissett is radiant as the troubled English actress Julie Baker who tries to cope with her depression while doing her job in playing the ingenue. Jean-Pierre Leaud is fantastic as the young actor Alphonse as he deals with his relationship issues while asking numerous questions about women as it relates to his own aloofness. Finally, there’s Valentina Cortese in a remarkable performance as the diva Severine as this woman trying to cope with aging as well as a fading career as Cortese brings a lot of life and exuberance to her performance that hides the sense of insecurities that she carries in her character.

La nuit americaine is an incredible film from Francois Truffaut. Armed with a great cast and many tributes and allusions to the world of cinema, the film is definitely one of Truffaut’s most accessible and compelling films of his career. Particularly as Truffaut makes fun of himself as well as show some realism into the world of filmmaking. In the end, La nuit americaine is a sensational film from Francois Truffaut.

Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine & Colette - The Soft Skin - Fahrenheit 451 - The Bride Wore Black - Stolen Kisses - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Bed and Board - Two English Girls - Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me - The Story of Adele H. - Small Change - The Man Who Loved Women - The Green Room - Love on the Run - The Last Metro - The Woman Next Door - Confidentially Yours

The Auteur #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)

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