Francois Truffaut Films
If Jean-Luc Godard was the nouvelle vague's political poet and Eric Rohmer its cultivated wit, then François Truffaut was its heart and soul. An unwanted child who was raised reluctantly by his grandparents and then his mother, Truffaut became obsessed with cinema at an early age. Rebelling against formal education, he preferred to devour books and attend ciné-clubs, te... [+]
If Jean-Luc Godard was the nouvelle vague's political poet and Eric Rohmer its cultivated wit, then François Truffaut was its heart and soul. An unwanted child who was raised reluctantly by his grandparents and then his mother, Truffaut became obsessed with cinema at an early age. Rebelling against formal education, he preferred to devour books and attend ciné-clubs, technicians' meetings and screenings at Henri Langlois's Cinémathèque Française. In 1948, the 16 year-old founded his own club, Cercle Cinémanie, and a clash of schedules brought him into contact with André Bazin, the critic who would become his mentor, bail him out of juvenile detention and the army, and find him a berth on the combative new journal, Cahiers du Cinéma.
Truffaut wasn't the most sophisticated of writers. But his passion and the clarity of his vision shone through in articles like `A Certain Tendancy of the French Cinema', in which he denounced the `tradition of quality' that had stifled postwar French film-making and accused the scenarists Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost and directors like Claude Autant-Lara, Jean Delannoy and Yves Allégret of creating a `cinéma du papa' that prioritised polished scripts over vibrant visual style. Borrowing Alexandre Astruc's concept of `le camera stylo', Truffaut concocted `la politique des auteurs', which established a pantheon of film-makers, including Alfred Hitchcock, Roberto Rossellini, Howard Hawks, Abel Gance, Jean Renoir, Jean Cocteau, Robert Bresson and Jacques Tati, who appended their own, unmistakable signature to their work.
Truffaut was certainly the auteur of The 400 Blows (1959), which not only launched the nouvelle vague in taking Cannes by storm, but also a series of semi-autobiographical films about its rebellious hero, Antoine Doinel, who would be played in Antoine and Colette (1962), Stolen Kisses (1968), Bed and Board (1970) and Love on the Run (1979) by the director's protégé, Jean-Pierre Léaud.
Truffaut took the self-reflexive gimmickry of the new wave that would transform international cinema to gleeful excess in his pulp pastiche, Shoot the Pianist (1961). But its commercial failure saw him seek refuge in an adaptation of Henri-Pierre Roché's Jules et Jim (1962), which set a trend he would follow to the end of his career of alternating between such humanist homages to Renoir as La Peau Douce (1964), The Wild Child (1970) and The Last Metro (1980) and Hitchcockian thrillers like The Bride Wore Black (1968), Mississippi Mermaid (1969) and Finally, Sunday! (1983).
Truffaut died of a brain tumour in 1984. Subsequently, a handful of critics have arraigned him for lapsing into his own tradition of quality with period pieces like Anne and Muriel (1971) and The Story of Adèle H (1975) and such slick entertainments as The Man Who Loved Women (1977) and The Woman Next Door (1981). However, you only have to watch A Gorgeous Girl Like Me (1972), Day for Night (1973) and Small Change (1976) to see that Truffaut remained very much a child of the cinema, who wanted his audience to appreciate its beauty, simplicity and power to touch the spirit as much as he did. [-]