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Connecting Hitchcock, Truffaut and Bogdanovich

It’s easy to understand the privileged place “Hitchcock/Truffaut” in book form has occupied in the minds of people who love movies, right from the first.

Here was one indisputably great film artist – who had already made “The 400 Blows,” “Shoot the Pianist” and “Jules and Jim” – treating an elder so often thought an “entertainer” as a cinematic master above most other film masters.

Hitchcock died in 1980. His great films were behind him by the time “Hitchcock/Truffaut” appeared. Truffaut died only four years after Hitchcock of a brain tumor. He was appallingly young and his work still vibrant. He is, then, forever immune to decline.

Truffaut began as a film apostle and died that way – at the age of 52. He appeared as a beloved acting presence in the films of others – Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of The Third Kind” for instance – but people who visited his film sets often said that you’d never know who the director was, so modest was his way of carrying and presenting himself.

Bogdanovich started out as an insatiable film acolyte and a truly great interviewer of Hollywood royalty of all kinds. As Truffaut did before him, he slowly emerged as a respected filmmaker.

“Targets” was Bogdanovich’s first important film for Roger Corman. Before long, we would see “The Last Picture Show,” “What’s Up, Doc” and “Paper Moon.”

Bogdanovich turned into a celebrity – substitute host for Johnny Carson, lover of beautiful women (Cybill Shepherd. Dorothy Stratten), maker of howlingly awful movies (“At Long Last Love”) and then, when former Playmate Stratten was murdered by her husband, a tabloid star. (As a consort of Stratten’s younger sister.)

He continued as a director with mixed results. Some movies were good (“Mask”), some not. He went to TV as an actor (the shrink to Tony Soprano’s own shrink, Dr. Melfi).

Bogdanovich’s mixed luck was to live a long and very complex life that fluctuated crazily in the world’s esteem.

– Jeff Simon

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