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Day for Night

1 rating: 3.0
Art House & International movie directed by Francois Truffaut

François Truffaut's lavish and fun 1973 comedy-drama about a film production is a clever hall of mirrors, with Truffaut himself playing a director, and his most important actor in real life, Jean-Pierre Léaud (The 400 Blows), portraying … see full wiki

Tags: Movies
Genre: Foreign
1 review about Day for Night

Delicate and volatile relationships on the set -- Truffaut celebrates the triumph and struggle behind cinema

  • May 12, 2008
Day for Night has not aged quite as well as some of Truffaut's other films, since it feels like an homage to a bygone era, but that is partly because it has influenced so many subsequent portrayals of what goes on behind the scenes during the making of a film, and it is partly because the filmmakers wanted to make an homage to an older style of filmmaking. Tom di Cillo's "Living in Oblivion" for example is the American indie version of Day for Night -- more cynical, even more funny, but not nearly so complex or profound. Day for Night almost wants to be a tragedy, and while the fact that the film gets finished in the end lends the film a comic dimension, it is clear that Truffaut knows life is never so neatly packaged. That is, in fact, the central theme of the film: that life is unpredictable and often tragic, but cinema makes magic of tragedy, and is worth the sacrifice that are made for it. The acting is very real and compelling -- especially when you recall that most of the actors play essentially two roles: their stage role and their character. The film itself seamlessly moves between scenes that are shot for the film within a film and scenes shot of the filming process and of the lives of the actors and crew. I did enjoy the fact that Truffaut included himself as the director of the film with the film that he was also directing; I also enjoyed a great deal the glimpse into what seems to be his process of working with actors and improvising in response to the demands of situations.

My only complaint is that there are a few fairly heavy-handed elements in the film, that belie Truffaut's otherwise light and subtle touch. At a few moments in the film we can hear what a character is thinking through voiceover -- and it seemed somewhat sporadic and inconsistent rather than the result of a coherent approach. When Truffaut (playing a director) falls asleep he hears voices (usually his own) and then dreams -- and the dreams are always of a little boy walking down the street in black and white. The dreams don't fit as clearly or as lightly into the film as similar sequences in Fellini's 8 1/2 (a film that this film is obviously comparing itself to at certain points). Though it seems that the boy in the dream must be the director, it wasn't clear to me what the dreams revealed other than: this is someone who, from an early age, was fascinated by film (and, possibly, felt guilty about "stealing" from Orson Welles). But I'm not sure why we needed three separate dream sequences (or any at all) to convey what seemed already clear -- at another moment the director opens a package of books and they are books about several of the great western directors including Orson Welles, Fellini, and Cocteau. Even that seemed a bit heavy handed -- was the point to make a comparison or to suggest a feeling of inadequacy?

On the whole, though, in spite of a few reservations that may be peculiar to me, this is an excellent film that belongs especially among the very great films about film: 8 1/2, Stardust Memories, Living in Oblivion, Beware of a Holy Whore, State and Main, and a few others. Highly recommended for lovers of film.

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