I believe the books written by and about François Truffaut outnumber all the other film books in my library. The latest addition is The Man Who Loved Films (originally in Romanian, Bãrbatul care iubea filmele) a less known book on the French director’s work written by Magda Mihãilescu. It is an in-depth, thoroughly researched, thought-provoking study on Truffaut’s films. But, to be completely honest, it is much too philosophical, very heavy reading. I do appreciate it as a cinephile, and of course we need this kind of writing, too, but if you want more people to watch Truffaut’s films, this is not the right book to begin with. Because I sincerely believe the large public needs some more accessible reading to make them familiar with the most important figures of cinema, to make them familiar with cinema.
Even if your film knowledge is broad and deep, you have to wear that knowledge lightly. It’s not only because the cultural drift in our modern-day society is so acute that you have to take steps to make culture more accessible (like making watching classic films more accessible to the wide public, not only on DVDs), but it’s also important to acknowledge that true appreciation begins with pleasure. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t like and don’t read film criticism. You have to love films in order to arouse other people’s interest in watching films. Many film critics leave me the impression they don’t find any joy in watching movies. You have to know how to communicate with the readers. Assume they know nothing. If you get technical and philosophical, there won’t be many who will be interested in Truffaut’s, or Murnau’s or Fritz Lang’s films. Most of them will continue to head for the multiplex.
This is the sad truth that struck me when I read Magda Mihãilescu’s book. There is a quote from Bernardo Bertolucci at some point, from the 1975 Cannes Film Festival, that goes like this: “We have come to be judged by people who have never watched a film by Truffaut.” This truth is even more sour (and the reality, so many more years later, much worse). Because, yes, there are many working in the film industry, from producers to so called critics, who are clearly not in it for the sake of true cinema and culture. So it really is in the hands of movie lovers to spread the love for classic cinema, for good cinema, any way we can, but mostly by watching movies and talking about them in a down-to-earth, approachable style, and with all the mighty love we are capable of.