Intensely charming, witty without being light-weight, François Truffaut’s film about making a film has, with the passing decades, acquired gravitas. An intensely pleasurable ‘watch,’ it’s only after viewing (or re-viewing) that you realize how much is going on in here. Not only in the memorable characterizations of actors & crew (and what a cast to play them!) or in how he dovetails lines of action, alternating POVs in front, behind and in the camera, but also in how he matches technique & style to every point at hand. And what a stunning technique it is, as broad as it is deep, slipping in experimental editing tricks for emphasis while keeping melodramatic moments sec with his unique mix of sharp attack & fluidity, paradoxically staccato & legato at once. Or simply with a laugh to deflate a delicate situation. And it’s fun to think about the silly faux film being shot, MEET PAMELA. It’s like one of those ‘quality’ projects he railed against in his days as young critic. And he's equally generous with his enthusiasms, literally unwrapping a package of directors for us to revere, displaying books on Hawks, Dreyer, Hitchcock, Bresson, Lubitsch, Bergman, Buñuel, Rossellini & Visconti; then making special reference to Jean Vigo (with a street sign), Jean Cocteau (on a wall hanging), William Wyler (the likely source for the hearing aid Truffaut's wears as on-screen director) and Orson Welles (in a dream sequence). And what of Jean Renoir, Truffaut’s filmic father figure? He’s in every shot since the entire film can be seen as one big tribute/companion piece to FRENCH CANCAN/’54 with its milieu moved from turn-of-the-last-century Music Hall to a ‘70s movie shoot.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: After winning Best Foreign Pic in ‘73; the film was then nominated for three more awards in 1974 when it opened Stateside. As director, Truffaut competed against Polanski, Coppola, Cassavetes & Fosse. What a list! But the most memorable moment that night was when Ingrid Bergman, up for MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, beat this film’s Valentina Cortese (as the struggling Italian actress) for Supporting Actress. None of the usual, ‘Oh, such an honor to even be listed with these fine . . . blah, blah, blah.’ Instead, “Oh, you’ve made a mistake! This should have gone to Valentina Cortese. We all know that person, that feeling.’ Well, something like that. It’s been many years. But what a gesture!