As someone who has never made a film but absolutely loves watching them, I’m completely fascinated by movies about making movies. Through the history of film, there have been a surprisingly number of them, many of which are great films in their own right. From the Coen Brothers making one of the greatest movies about writer’s block (Barton Fink) while trying to work through their own writer’s block (they were stuck in the middle of Miller’s Crossing) to Tim Burton’s glorious take on Ed Wood making one of the worst films ever made (Plan 9 From Outer Space), filmmakers have been mining their own industry for decades. Some films, like Singin’ in the Rain (about the transition from silent films to talkies), are straightforward love letters to film itself, others, like Fellin’s 8 1/2 are more avant garde and existential.
Whatever the style and whatever aspect of filmmaking these movies take, I always love watching them. Partially, this is because I always wanted to make my own films so it's fascinating to see the various behind-the-scenes moments these films present, but it's also interesting to see great artists use their medium to dwell on their own art.
The great French director François Truffaut made his own movie about movies in 1973 and it's one of my favorites. Day for Night takes its title from the cinematic technique of filming something in the day but through underexposure, filters, or post-production processing it will appear as night (interestingly the French name for this - and the literal translation of the film’s title is “American Night” because Hollywood is so good at this process). In a similar manner, the film is not only about the behind-the-scenes goings-on of a film shoot, but also the artificiality of cinema and whether film is in anyway more important than real life.
It is a great film in and of itself and all the more fascinating to see Truffaut’s (who plays the director in the movie within the movie) thoughts on filmmaking. This is especially true as he was a great film critic before he took up the camera himself.
As usual, Criterion has done their superlative job of cleaning up this movie, upgraded it to high definition, and filled it with lots of extras. Truffaut will always be in the running for my Picks and with Criterion giving it their attention, there was really no contest this week.
Also coming this week that looks interesting:
Walt Disney Animations Studios Short Films Collection: Pretty much what the title implies, a nice collection of various short films Disney has made over the years. Includes the following titles: "John Henry," "Lorenzo," "The Little Matchgirl," "How To Hook Up Your Home Theater," "Tick Tock Tale," "Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa," "The Ballad Of Nessie," "Tangled Ever After," "Paperman," "Get A Horse!", "Feast," "Frozen Fever."
La Grande Bouffe: Controversial French-Italian film about a group of four friends who gather one weekend with the sole purpose of eating themselves to death. It's either a disgusting affront to all things decent in this world or a marvelous skewering of bourgeois society. I’ll let you know which in my upcoming review.
A Town Called Hell: Also known as A Town Called Bastard is a 1971 Italian western starring Robert Shaw and Telly Savalas. I know nothing about this, but I like me some Spaghetti Westerns and with a name like that, I’m intrigued.