Masters At Work, And Play
One of the many great things about art and creativity is the multiple interpretations that a piece of work can inspire in the viewer. That of course doesn’t mean that the individuals experience may be the desired result or indeed the intention of the artist, but at least there is an affect. There can be nowt much worse to the creative fires than apathy, indifference or oxygen to fuel the flames.
In the modern media savvy and suckled world it would be very difficult to associate such potential misinterpretations with Alfred Hitchcock who is rightly recognised to be one of the greatest movie directors and masters to have ever strolled the earth and our cinema screens. Indeed if he isn’t actually the greatest. But there was a time where he was viewed as a jobbing director churning out movies at a studio satisfied rate. But it was the regularity of these ventures than enabled him to quickly hone his craft and with that as a foundation stretched the boundaries of the very medium itself in every direction. His ability to transport emotions from paper to screen and straight into your own psyche were second to none, but again not everyone recognised it from the outset.
Somewhat quicker to be recognised as an artist circling the Master podium was French New Wave director Francois Truffaut. Coming from a background of being a movie critic he was well versed in paying attention to and adsorbing all the various techniques used throughout cinematic history, which of course was still was a very young medium. And as is the hail of many a true auteur the best way to evolve and bloom is to absorb everything, then throw away the rule book. Truffaut saw a much deeper visionary artist in Hitchcock than the populist fare he released may have indicated, he saw a fellow Master.
It is often said you shouldn’t meet your heroes and there are many just disastrous tales to validate such a viewpoint. It’s not my viewpoint though. Of course the subject of your inspiration will turn out to not be the individual you expected, but none of us have any right to have expectations of others. They sail the same life seaways as us in equally weather beaten frames with barnacle encrusted memories dragging the glide through the elements. In that vain Truffaut arranged a week long meeting and conversation in 1962 with Hitchcock to discuss the elders body of work, and to truly represent it in the light it deserved.
Hitchcock was 63 at the time and Truffaut 30, and though there was a language barrier (thankfully Helen Scott was on hand to translate) the human desire to communicate would not hinder anything. The conversation was released in book form Hitchcock/Truffaut (Le Cinéma selon Alfred Hitchcock, 1966) and now with have the wonderful documentary ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut’ (2015) by Kent Jones about the encounter.
Fruitfully splicing together some fantastic casual photography of the event with recorded taped conversations we are able to experience the play of the two great minds as they really have the conversation of a life time, and they did in fact become friends for life. Considering the medium the two men worked in, it is deeply unfortunate that it wasn’t all captured on film, but to Jones credit and artistry he renders that moot.
It is a documentary about the love of cinema, by a man who clearly loves cinema, of a conversation between two greats who each in turn love cinema, but represent it in vastly different ways. As such it is a geek out joy for fellow cinematic like minded individuals with the likes of David Fincher, Richard Linklater, Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson amongst many others turning up to comment on the effect of both these greats had on their careers. But even for people who have a casual attention to the film world it is a joy to people talking with utter conviction, joy, knowledge and belief in something they truly love. And with the background behind many of the creative decisions explored, it helpfully bridges the distance from where the viewer sits to that Masters podium, so it may even inspire the next generation of greats. I’m sure that was the intention of Truffaut in 1962, and Jones in 2016.
Hitchcock/Truffaut is out now.