Picks and Pans Review: Truffaut by Truffaut

updated 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

compiled by Dominique Rabourdin

François Truffaut, the French film director who died in 1984, was one of the most articulate and forthcoming of movie personalities. This book by French film journalist Rabourdin is a compilation of excerpts from his articles, books, letters and interviews, illustrated by 500 photographs taken on and off the set. It is hardly critical of either Truffaut's life or work—though he was often as harsh a critic of his own work as he had been of others' when he was a reviewer. Yet the book is full of insights and little surprises that are sure to delight those who have enjoyed such Truffaut films as The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, Day for Night, The Man Who Loved Women and The Last Metro. The book includes a brief section on the director's own background. He had a mildly delinquent boyhood (which he re-created in The 400 Blows) and later deserted from the French Army. There were, he recalled, "films to be seen and no desire to go back." Most of the book, however, is devoted to films. There are wonderful nuggets of trivia, such as a letter revealing that Truffaut was at one point set to direct Bonnie and Clyde, with Terence Stamp in the leading role Warren Beatty eventually filled. And there is Truffaut expounding on his art: "The idea is not to show characters and say: 'Here's how my characters are and to hell with you;' the idea is, 'Here is how my characters are, I ask you to understand them.' " On his passion for the films of Alfred Hitchcock: "Don't forget that I grew up in fear, and that Hitchcock is the filmmaker of fear. You enter into his films as into a dream of great beauty of form, so harmonious, so natural." On working as an actor in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind: "Spielberg had shown me the two thousand sketches of his storyboard, so I knew that what he was after was a grand cartoon strip and that I could put back in my suitcase the book by Stanislavsky that I had bought for the occasion." On writing technique: "A scene must not be a scenette. It can become a little film in itself, a movement in three parts: start, middle and end." It's hard to imagine an artist discussing his art with more passion and eloquence. (Abrams, $42.50)

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