Friday, March 27, 2009

Underseen Truffaut (and one is for a very good reason)

In my never ending quest to see as many François Truffaut films as I can get my hands on, I found out that my school's video library had a couple of his little known movies stashed away: 1977's The Man Who Loved Women and his final film, 1983's Vivement Dimanche! [Confidentially Yours]. Now, let's do a little investigating and try to understand why no one talks about these films from the French master.

Well, the reason people have forgotten The Man Who Loved Women is really quite obvious: it's a terrible movie. Easily the worst Truffaut film I have ever seen. The plot is so Truffaut- a ladies' man, Bertrand (Charles Denner), loves and obsesses about the numerous women who have passed through his life- but, unlike any of the Antoine Doinel films, it's handled absolutely dreadfully. Truffaut thinks he's worshipping these women, but he really treats them like ridiculous, idiotic harpies who are all dumb enough to fall for Bertrand's creepy, stalker-ish tactics. I mean, seriously, what thoughtful, intelligent women is going to find it charming that a man tracked them down by copying their license plate down, pretending he had an accident caused by this woman, practically stealing her home address from the car rental service and then driving hours away to find her in hopes of a quick fuck? And the fact that this women- indeed, all of the women- fall for his smug act throughout the entire movie drove me absolutely insane. This film is so skanky and obviously of a "different era" sexually that I've honestly been more comfortable watching Flavor Flav make out with New York, Deelishis and three other chicks on the same episode of Flavor of Love. I also hated the way Truffaut thinks that by having the female editor (Brigette Fossey) like the book, rather than the macho males who should be cheering on Bertrand's sexual exploits, we will forget the previous misconstrued visions of women we've just seen. As if. And then she likes it for the most ludicrous reasons- something along the lines of he's an "everyman," he struggles with life like everyone else and he's really just a good guy dealing with some mommy issues. Puh-lease. This guy is a creep, plain and simple, and no amount of preaching is going to make me think that he deserves my pity. D+

I did, however, enjoy one really quick shot of a cat picking at Bertrand and his publisher's leftover food outside their hotel room- an obvious homage to the funniest scene in Day for Night where it takes Truffaut and company 50 takes to get the shot right. If only the rest of the film had been this inspired.

This brings us to Vivement Dimanche! (also known as Confidentially Yours in America), another in film in Truffaut's homage to his favorite director (and mine), Alfred Hitchcock. The film doesn't linger on the brain quite as long as the mysterious Belmondo/Denueve starring Mississippi Mermaid, but it's still quite a solid little film. The plot- an innocent man (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is accused of murdering three different people from very damning evidence and it's up to him and his secretary (Fanny Ardant) to find out the real killer- is really nothing special and probably wouldn't make much sense if you thought about it for a couple of minutes. As with most of Truffaut's work, what makes it special is the spirit, which is even harder to get right than the story. Plus, the cinematography- with its really crisp black and whites and complete elimination of grays- is especially beautiful to look at. Confidentially Yours isn't a first-tier Truffaut, but it's definitely worth a look and a fitting last film for one of cinema's true iconoclasts. B

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