François Truffaut’s Day for Night is an excellent film about cinema. The 1973 film is frequently humorous, and always compelling.
Film director Ferrand is shooting a movie in Nice. While the film is concerned with affairs and betrayal, Ferrand has an even bigger struggle with the cast and crew’s multiple issues…
Day for Night is shot in a mockumentary style, with its frequent use of handheld camera and occasional narration. This style works exceptionally well for the film, helping to draw parallels between the image the cast and crew wish to project and the actuality of events. The faux documentary style employed by Day for Night does not attempt to purport that the events are real. Rather, it uses the conventions of the form to create humour, and as a storytelling device.
As well as directing and starring in the film, Truffaut also co-wrote the screenplay with Jean-Louis Richard and Suzanne Schiffman. The team has done a brilliant job in crafting characters and writing on point dialogue. Furthermore, some of the set-ups are fantastically entertaining.
Truffaut plays director Ferrand in Day for Night, a character one suspects is not too different from his own persona. Certainly his love of cinema is replicated in Ferrand. The contemporary action in the film is interspersed with a few dream sequences. In these scenes, which feature Ferrand as a child, the director’s passion for cinema becomes clear. Referencing Citizen Kane, it is clear that Truffaut and his character share the same influences.
Performances are good all round, although a few in particular stand out. Valentina Cortese is excellent as alcoholic actress Severine. Cortese plays the actress with an energy that is perfect for the role. The scene in which Severine keeps making mistakes is hilarious, and one of the film’s most memorable scenes thanks to her performance. Elsewhere, Jean-Pierre Léaud is great as melodramatic actor Alphonse. His parody of the young leading man is spot on, portraying an intense but juvenile actor that appears similar to the perceived personalities of many stars. All of the cast deliver their lines exceptionally well, which is so pivotal to the success of the humour.
Georges Delerue’s befitting score competently reflects the tone of the film. Day for Night is engaging from start to finish. It is an accomplished example of François Truffaut’s flair for filmmaking, and a must see for fans of the art of cinema.
Day for Night is being screened at the British Film Institute from 18th February 2011 as part of the François Truffaut season, as well as selected venues across the UK.