DAY FOR NIGHT, 1973
Directed by François Truffaut
Starring: Jacqueline Bisset, Valentina Cortese, Dani, Alexandra Stewart, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Jean Champion
Review by Jordan Young
A film company at work. Actors arrive and depart; liaisons develop. Julie, the beautiful but possibly unstable lead, is recovering from a breakdown, aided by an older physician, her new husband. Alphonse is insecure, he babbles. When his fiance exits with a stunt man, he threatens to quit. Julie must convince him to stay. Alexandre, a consummate pro on the set, runs back and forth to the airport hoping a certain young man will visit. Severine, no longer young, hits the bottle and covers blown lines with emotional outbursts. At the center is Ferrand, the writer director, who must make constant decisions, answer a stream of questions, and deliver the film on schedule.
In Truffaut’s film about a film “Day For Night”, he accurately (for better and for worse) shows the ups and downs that are involved in film making. This was my introduction to working on a film crew… a month later.
Some of you are more familiar with the American remake of this film, “State and Main”, which I believe is a little more chaotic, but nonetheless a good movie. In this version, Truffaut himself plays the director, Ferrand, and how he deals with the struggles of the actors and the actresses.
Jacqueline Bisset plays Julie Baker who is the actress on rebound from a nervous breakdown, and who’s ridiculous demands are only fulfilled because of her A-list star power. (My personal favorite, being the request of making a specific butter sculpture, which is unavailable and is therefore handmade by the script supervisor.) I had a similar experience where I had to drive an multiple miles for batteries, hard drives, and yerba mate… in the middle of central Pennsylvania.
Then there is the very difficult encounter with an actress who won’t wear a swimsuit because she is pregnant. These are just some examples of the difficulty of movie-making. “Day for Night” is genius in depicting the illusions within cinema. There are many clear examples of this, but there are vague examples as well. This film does a bit of demystifying the cinematic process, yet it doesn’t cast a film shoot in a completely negative tone.
The films plot revolves around the character’s struggles in regards to acting and to living, but this is more than enough to fuel the narrative development… This isn’t like Richard Linklater’s “Slacker”, in that regard. But it does gets you to sympathize with all of these character’s endeavors.
This film dealt with much bigger crises than the average shoot, like actors and actresses threatening (and succeeding) at leaving the shoot, as opposed to the minutia of, where can we plug this in and waiting for the sun to get to just the right space. But nonetheless, it accurately depicts, the turbulence of the movie shoot.
Nearly all of the picture is summarized in the beginning by a voice over by Truffaut. “Shooting a movie is like a stagecoach trip. At first you hope for a nice ride. Then you just hope to reach your destination.” In this tumultuous trip that viewer is about to be shown, this point is definitely realized. Very entertaining and highly recommend to anyone about to start their first shoot as well… it could be thought of as a training ground for aspiring film makers.