Exclusive: Director Kent Jones Talks ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut’

 

 

Now playing in select theaters, Hitchcock/Truffaut centers on the making of one of the most popular books on cinema. Along with culling audio from the actual conversations between filmmakers Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut, director Kent Jones talks to directors Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Wes Anderson, and Richard Linklater (among others) about Hitchcock’s (and the book’s) influence on their careers.

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The book itself, which has Hitchcock breaking down the shooting process and experiences of his movies, is a must read (Truffaut, a first rate director who was also a passionate cinephile, also proves a worth partner in the proceedings).

Below is my interview with Kent Jones, who talks about his own love for Hitchcock and how film culture has changed over the years.

One of the challenges of directing Hitchock/Truffaut was probably editing all your interviews with the filmmakers while also giving viewers a deeper look into the relationship between Francois Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock.

That was the movie. Piecing it together and making it some kind of coherent whole. That was the challenge and fun of making the movie. I don’t want to make a movie unless I can find something (in the process).

Director Kent Jones Photo credit GODLIS
Director Kent Jones Photo credit GODLIS

The actual book is a blow by blow account of how Hitchcock made his movies. How did it influence your own dreams of being a filmmaker?

It’s what David Fincher talks about in the movie. It’s talking about filmmaking at its most basic. When I was young, it was a very different world – Martin Scorsese and I talk about this a lot . . . particularly when he was young in the 40s and 50s the idea that he would make a movie. Movies were just something you went to see. They weren’t things you could actually dream of making yourself. They were made by giants somewhere from some enchanted realm.

With (the advent of) the lightweight 16mm cameras or when John Cassavetes made Shadows, that really opened things up. Even so, it still seemed very daunting, it even felt daunting to me when I was in film school, that I couldn’t quite put it together. Now of course it’s a different world because people have access to tools that allows them to make a movie that looks really presentable and sounds great in their own home.

The book certainly doesn’t dismantle everything and say ‘hey it’s really simple all you have to do is this’ – but it gives you the building blocks and the tools (to filmmaking). So it really opened my eyes in that way and I know it did that for David Fincher and a lot of other people as well.

As Martin Scorsese has previously mentioned, the beauty and composition of the frame seems to be lost in many films today, and it’s an art that was perfected by Alfred Hitchcock.

One of the things you’re seeing now is a fascination and focus on filmmaking as a craft. Now that we’re in a moment when it is easier to make a movie on the one hand, on the other other hand you have these extravagantly expensive action movies where the connection with the history of cinema is a bit touch and go.

While the connection to film culture was very deep and felt like it was very permanent when I was young, it feels a little lighter and (transitory) now.  Because my generation and the one before me and that connection to that older moment is going. With all those things happening at the same time, the concentration of the beauty of the film image and grammar of film becomes more precious and it now becomes more of a focal point.

What is your favorite Alfred Hitchcock film – my personal favorite is Vertigo. Also, how has he inspired you?

His career is a source of inspiration for me. I’ve been watching them for most of my life and I go back and watch them all the time and it’s always a new experience. Watching them with my kids – that’s been a great experience. Sure – Vertigo. But when I did the Sight & Sound list last time I put Notorious at (the top). I could just as well have put nine other movies. Hitchcock’s films are a wonder to me.

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