Day for Night ★★★★★

François Truffaut, as the multiphacetic director that he is, decides to change the Nouvelle Vague style he adapted during the 60s, and constructs one of the best visionary concepts about metafilm ever committed to celluloid. By definition, any metafilm project constitutes a tribute to cinema. In this case, Truffaut adopts a face of modesty and explains the process of filmmaking while referencing the giant icons of cinema that have defined such art throughout the decades. In order to be more effective and even appealing, he disguises this difficult attempt with a very innocent and simple touch of comedy. Few are the films that have molded the bases of cinema, and few are the films that have brought such concept to the screen so effectively. In the end, La Nuit Américaine is much more than a reference to a film technique that consists in filming night scenes in broad daylight: it is the process of such technique and every variable it involves. With a superbly written screenplay and a more accessible atmosphere, Truffaut shows the sentiments, thoughts and terrific anecdotes that constitute the world of cinema. It is an art, an imitation of life and the representation of a particular portion of the world through the lens of an imaginative illustrator of moving images.

Truffaut inventively assumes the role of a director named Ferrand that works at "La Victorine" Studios. The film he is directing is called "Je Vous Presente Pamela" (May I Introduce Pamela), which tells the story of an English married wife that falls in love and latterly runs away with the father of her French husband. Through several hardships, surrounding liaisons, schedule conflicts and unbelievable situations, La Nuit Américaine deals with the making of the movie, the personal and professional crises that the director faces, the adventures and deceptions of the cast, and the troubles that Ferrand faces with the technical crew. In 1974, the film won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The next year, it received 3 Academy Award nominations for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Writing, Original Screenplay and Best Director. Director François Truffaut won a Critics Award for Best Film at the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics.

In La Nuit Américaine, Truffaut divides life into three different worlds: the real-life world, the world of cinema and the world of filmmaking. Towards the end, Truffaut's character (Ferrand) says that cinema is more important than life for those who were born to be dedicated to such art. Life is full of deceptions and has several pauses; cinema does not, since you control them. The character who is told this refutes the idea while being in a period of crisis. Personally, I am highlighting this idea since the purpose of Truffaut was to contrast the naturalness and random unpredictability of life with the organized diagram that determines the direction and, therefore, the course of a film project. This was the origin for transforming the plot into a brilliant metafilm. Truffaut has a huge heart and, through one of his most lovable and entertaining films, he depicts the three different worlds and how, while sharing elements in common, result in an anecdotic explosion of incredible elements when they intertwine. When it may seem that the director is the nucleus of the film and the supporting characters and crew are the main focus, they are not. The real center is the film and its direction.

The comedy of Truffaut's film can be found in the fact that life itself is also humorous. Tension, technical conflicts and the sudden death of an actor (inside the film's plot, not in real life) propitiate an atmosphere of never-ending constant work in which the most practical solution is commitment. The narrator of La Nuit Américaine is Ferrand himself, suggesting that the hardest work for the creation of a movie is the director. Through graphical and hidden references, Truffaut expresses his love towards cinema and, despite all of the aspects that involve the filmmaking process, towards the process itself. Empathizing with worldwide audiences, mentions of Orson Welles (considerably emphasizing Citizen Kane [1941] through a psychological flashback), Roberto Rossellini, Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, Luis Buñuel, Jean Cocteau and Howard Hawks are made, not to mention that the film is dedicated to the Gish sisters (Lillian and Dorothy). All of this suggests that the nature of the film is self-explanatory, trying to share the passion towards cinema that both the filmmakers and film critics have. Whether it is "La Nuit Américaine" or "Day for Night", quality cinema owns a universal language that appeals humanity regardless of the cultures, folkloric differences, religions, direction styles and morality concepts.

The means used to add more naturalness to La Nuit Américaine is to portray human characters, thus mirroring the personality of the real life actors, including the one of François Truffaut. We have the naïve and brokenhearted protagonist who, ironically, plays a very important role in the film. We have the adventurous and deceitful woman that causes a funny turn of events. We have a remarkable Valentina Cortese who incarnates the old age actress of bourgeois attitude and celebrative psychology. We have the committed director that feels his role consists in being ready to face unexpected events, satisfying the demands of foreign producers and answering hundreds of questions per day. As for the cinematic scenery it is offered throughout the plot, we go through liaisons, affairs, press conferences, interviews and great filming locations. The film was very careful not to resemble a simple and boringly nonsensical "making-of"; the director made a plot within a plot, and the tasks required to bring such plot-within-plot to the big screen. The first mockumentary in movie history had barely been made two years ago; however, Truffaut aimed towards a more natural construction of the story and decided to stick to a more traditional style that remembered the masterworks that geniuses had made during the past decades with a nostalgic tone.

With an exceptional camera work and one of the cleverest scripts ever written, La Nuit Américaine is one of the best films by François Truffaut and an ambitious project that follows the steps Federico Fellini's 8½ (1963) had left behind. The direction is magnificently splendid and it is aimed towards a very specific audience: cinema lovers. That is why this movie is a dream come true. You may interpret it as a film that homages the revolutionaries of cinema, or it may be seen as the representation of Truffaut's alter ego. The truth is, Truffaut is modestly mirroring the genius of his abilities through a fictional character that lives in a world that the real director routinely lives in. Splendid cinematography and a vigorously joyous pace sweeten this masterpiece, which definitely is one of the best foreign films of the decade and a very appealing tribute to the cinema all of us admire.


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