Day for Night DVD
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Directed by François Truffaut
Produced in 1973
Main Language - French with English subtitles
Day for Night (La nuit americaine) was director Francois Truffaut's humorous tribute to the insanity of making a movie. David Parkinson remembers why he fell in love with cinema.
If you ever feel jaded and wonder why you bother plonking yourself down in front of so many mediocre movies, slip François Truffaut's Day for Night into your machine and within five minutes you will remember why you fell in love with cinema in the first place. As much a glorious in-joke as a homage to his heroes or a billet doux to a capricious mistress, this is the nouvelle vague's last hurrah, which is made all the more poignant by the fact that Truffaut could almost sense the onset of Hollywood blockbusterdom with his throwaway gag about the ubiquity of Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather (1972).
Drawing on his own recollections and anecdotes he'd heard about shenanigans on other sets, the action centres on the filming at Victorine Studios in Nice of Meet Pamela, a melodrama about in-law infidelity that Truffaut had lifted from a British tabloid. The plot of the film-within-the-film is essentially a Macguffin. What matters is the interaction of the cast and crew as egos and insecurities collide and it becomes a wonder that a single scene ever gets completed.
Truffaut is in his element as the half-deaf auteur suspecting he's selling his soul. But the real joy can be seen in his bravura choreography of Pierre-William Glenn's camera and the way Georges Delerue's score complements the rhythm of the editing. Truffaut also revels in directing such accomplished performers as Valentina Cortese (whose tipsy contretemps with the cupboard door is hilarious every time), Jean-Pierre Léaud (whose immature Doinel-like lead ends up bedding emotionally fragile co-star Jacqueline Bisset) and Nathalie Baye, who is seemingly ubiquitous as the cheery continuity clerk who also doubles as agony aunt and Girl Friday.
However, Truffaut wasn't entirely in control, as co-scenarist Suzanne Schiffman pulled a fast one by casting novelist Graham Greene as the English insurance agent without revealing his identity. It would be nice to think that the sequence with the recalcitrant kitten was a reference to Harry Lime's first appearance in The Third Man (1949), but it actually recalls an incident that occurred while filming La Peau Douce (1964)
David Parkinson on 18th February 2011
Author of 237 reviews
Known to English-speaking audiences as Day for Night, La nuit americaine was director Francois Truffaut's loving and humorous tribute to the communal insanity of making a movie.
The film details the making of a family drama called 'Meet Pamela', about the tragedy that follows when a young French man introduces his parents to his new British wife.
Truffaut gently satirizes his own films with Meet Pamela's overwrought storyline, but the real focus is on the chaos behind the scenes. One of the central actresses is continually drunk due to family problems, while the other is prone to emotional instability, and the male lead (Truffaut regular Jean-Pierre Leaud) starts to act erratically when his intermittent romance with the fickle script girl begins to fail.
In addition to all this personal drama, the film is besieged by technical problems, from difficult tracking shots to stubborn animal actors.
1973 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film.
Length: 112 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 18th February 2011
Cat No: SDF3
- French Region 2 edition, playable in all UK DVD players
- DVD menus in English
- Film is in French with English subtitles