Tuesday, June 16, 2015

567. La Nuit americaine/Day for Night (1973)

Running Time: 115 minutes
Directed By: Francois Truffaut
Written By: Jean-Louis Richard, Suzanne Schiffman, Francois Truffaut
Main Cast: Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Francois Truffaut, Dani
Click here to view the trailer


My vacation officially began today (well, yesterday now) at 4:00pm, when I left work in what is always one of  my most anticipated times of the year. My wife and I began our vacation with a nice dinner out and then returned home, where we plan to spend the majority of the next nine days, relaxing. I fell asleep earlier, at about 10:00pm, but awoke at around midnight, unable to sleep and so here I am, ready to grace you with yet another perfectly mediocre review. Shall we?

I feel like describing the plot of Day for Night is almost moot, since the film really isn't about the story or the characters, but rather the story and the characters are used enhance Truffaut's movie, which is THE BOOK dubs his "valentine to the process of moviemaking". In one particular scene, Truffaut (playing pretty much himself, a character named Ferrand - a director) receives a package he's been expecting. Cutting the twine around the parcel, Ferrand reveals a pile of books, all about different directors: Rossellini, Hitchcock, Godard, Dreyer, Bunuel, etc. It's a clear ode to some of his favorites and sort of gives you an idea of what to expect going into Day for Night. If you want the meat & potatoes version, however, the film is about the making of a movie (called Meet Pamela), in which the star is British beauty Julie Baker (Bisset), who comes to France to dawn a wig and play the title role of Ferrand's masterpiece. The film also stars Jean-Pierre Aumont and Jean-Pierre Leaud as her co-stars, the former of which is a real pro and the latter (Leaud), a young, hot shot type, who is more concerned with the female members of the cast (particularly Dani's Liliane) than making a picture. The film not only takes us behind the camera, unmasking the movie business, revealing some of the tricks of the trade, but also demonstrates the familial atmosphere of a cast and the hardships of a director to hold it all together.


This film made me wonder about so many things. Mostly though, it made me wonder how much of it was based on fact. For example, I had a sneaking suspicion that the character Valentina Cortese portrayed (Severine) was based on someone Truffaut actually worked with. Did that scene where she kept mixing up the doors not seem like Truffaut screaming, "This actually happened!"? I kept wondering whether or not Jean-Pierre Leaud was actually that much of a womanizer onset. I have a feeling he's a professional, but also get the sense that he's bedded his share of female co-stars. I wondered about the machine that made the artificial snow and how many of my favorite scenes in cinema that take place in the snow, actually took place in mounds of foam. I also wondered nearly the same thing about scenes I've watched from balconies and wondered how many of those windows were actually just props, not real windows at all. In a way, this movie should be ashamed for blowing my illusions, but on the other hand, also unashamed for sprouting my sense of wonderment. I'm a firm believer that when one watches fiction, they need to suspend their disbelief, however, here is one movie where that is not a prerequisite. I realize the title Day for Night refers to a filming technique, but I also feel like it could be applied to the fact that this film is both fiction and non-fiction, with equal parts real and fake elements. On one hand, you have a perfectly acceptable story about a cast making a movie and on the other hand, they really don't matter because it's all about Truffaut pulling back the curtain and sort of writing down his memoirs. I feel like I missed so much stuff that was in there, simply because this was only my second Truffaut film. For instance, am I not correct in comparing Ferrand's Meet Pamela to Jules and Jim? A female character who falls in love with two men and ultimately kills herself? I've seen Jules and Jim once, years ago and I remembered that reference, so think of all the things I could've picked out had I been a Truffaut enthusiast.

Oh and for anyone with their jaws still agape at my previous statement about Catherine Deneuve (see my review for The Last Metro), I just have to say that I'm more of a Jacqueline Bisset man. I mean, wow, she was mind blowingly gorgeous and it makes me wonder why she wasn't in more stuff and sought out by more directors. The rest of the cast was fine, especially Jean-Pierre Leaud whom I love more and more each time I see him in something. I, just now, went to Leaud's Wikipedia page and was taken aback to see a picture of him, taken in 2000, age fifty-six. For some reason, I expected to see a picture of Leaud as he was in '73, unaged. Here's someone who I just refuse to believe is now an old man and no longer this cocky, young, womanizing intellect. I think one time, before either of them retire, Leaud needs to appear in a Woody Allen movie, if only in a cameo role. He had a part in a movie in 2012, so he's still active...

RATING: 6.5/10  I just don't think it's so good that I need to bump it into '7' territory, but this was perfectly acceptable moviemaking and one that makes me excited for the other three Truffaut films. With these two in the bag (The Last Metro and Day for Night) I'm still not blown away by Francois and that's something that I'd like to be, by at least one of his movies.


June 16, 2015  2:02am


  1. Another one to get through I'm afraid..
    Interesting .. to me, the best of this trio was Jues et Jim .. your biggest miss....

    1. Here's hoping either 400 Blows or Shoot the Piano Player wiw me!


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