By now it’s an article of faith among film lovers that Alfred Hitchcock was far more than a mere maker of suspense movies.
He was a true cinema genius who used the medium to plumb the depths of his own soul, his phobias, his impish sense of humor.
There’s no shortage of film-themed documentaries that have dealt in some way with Sir Alfred and his career, but “Hitchcock/Truffaut” introduces a new element by allowing Hitch to comment on his movies.
In 1962, French New Wave filmmaker Francois Truffaut sat down with his idol in an office at Universal Studios in Hollywood, where Hitchcock was finishing “The Birds.” For an entire week they talked movies, aided by a translator. The result was Truffaut’s classic 1966 book “Hitchcock/Truffaut.”
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More than 50 years later, the audio recordings that were the basis for that book are now the basis for filmmaker Kent Jones’ documentary.
Jones has also drawn on talking-head interviews with fellow filmmakers (and Hitchcock fanatics) like Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich, Wes Anderson and Olivier Assayas. They not only love Hitchcock’s films but claim that their own films reflect that love.
And of course the doc is crammed with clips from Hitch’s features (the crop duster segment from “North by Northwest,” the shower murder from “Psycho”), still photos and behind-the-scenes footage.
There really aren’t any new revelations here, at least not for those already bitten by the Hitchcock bug.
But for casual movie watchers who may not understand what the buzz is all about, “Hitchcock/Truffaut” convincingly makes the case that Hitchcock’s radicalizing influence has trickled down through the works of several generations of filmmakers and that his body of work is among the most impressive in all of movie history.
The film also does a nice job of personalizing Hitch, who despite his public persona appears to have been a pomposity-free sort of fellow. In his taped comments he comes off as playful yet sincere. There’s no display of ego … but perhaps that’s because he already understood his place in the cinematic scheme of things.
Along the way the movie provides a lovely appreciation of Truffaut, the French director (“The 400 Blows,” “Jules and Jim”) who died in 1984 and, despite his towering presence in film history, is today virtually unknown to meat-and-potatoes moviegoers.
Special kudos to editor Rachel Reichman for the film’s visual rhythm (something Hitchcock would certainly appreciate) and composer Jeremiah Bornfield, whose string-quartet stylings are simultaneously classy, dramatic and ethereal.
(At the Tivoli.)
Read more of Robert W. Butler’s reviews at butlerscinemascene.com.
Rated PG-13. Time: 1:19.
To celebrate “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” the Tivoli Cinemas, 4050 Pennslyvania Ave., will show a favorite from each director next week:
▪ “Rear Window” by Alfred Hitchcock, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
▪ “The Bride Wore Black” by Francois Truffaut, 7 p.m. Wednesday.