In 1962, François Truffaut conducted a series of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock, which, five years later, were compiled in the book Hitchcock, covering fifty of his films, including Torn Curtain. The French film critic and director was the first and last one Hitch agreed to seriously discuss his work with, opening up on his undivided passion for cinema and deep emotions that were behind his visionary mind, technical mastery and inimitable films. In the revised edition, The Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock, published in 1983, Truffaut added one more chapter, thus completing Hitchcock’s filmography with his last three works, Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot.
It is a superb book! Truffaut’s insightful and intelligent questions (I sometimes had the feeling he knew Hitchcock’s films better than himself) and relentless inquisitiveness, and Hitchcock’s apprehension of the visual, technical and psychological make this book a rare and rich source of cinema knowledge. François Truffaut and the French New Wave proclaimed Alfred Hitchcock an auteur director, a cinema creator, a complete film-maker and acknowledged his immeasurable contribution to the film world before anyone else. Truffaut praises all that here, too, and rightfully so. But what makes this book so great is that Truffaut is not short of criticism towards Hitchcock’s works either. And neither is Hitchcock. They are both very sincere and balanced in their opinions, taking every film and deconstructing it, pointing out its weaknesses and its best parts. This approach gave me a constructive view on some of Hitchcock’s classics that I had considered flawless, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that reading this felt like attending a film course. You get to know about filming techniques, the psychology of suspense, the construction of a scenario, the importance of editing, dealing with time and space, realistic film-making, film as a strictly visual medium, directing the audience… you get to see cinema and the whole process of bringing a film to the big screen with different eyes.
“If Hitchcock, to my way of thinking, outranks the rest (of the Hollywood directors), it is because he is the most complete film-maker of all. He is not merely an expert at some specific part of cinema, but an all-around specialist, who excels at every image, every short, and every scene. He masterminds the construction of the screenplay as well as the photography, the cutting, and the sound track, has creative ideas on everything and can handle anything and is even, as we already know, expert at publicity!” François Truffaut
photo by me