DAY FOR NIGHT (La Nuit Americaine) (director/writer: Francois Truffaut; screenwriters: Jean-Louis Richard/Suzanne Schiffman; cinematographer: Pierre-William Glenn; editors: Martine Barraqué/Yann Dedet; music: Georges Delerue; cast: Jacqueline Bisset (Julie Baker), Valentina Cortese (Severine), Dani (Liliane), Alexandra Stewart (Stacey), Jean-Pierre Aumont (Alexandre), Jean Champion (Bertrand), Jean-Pierre Léaud (Alphonse), Francois Truffaut (director Ferrand), Nike Arrighi (Odile), Nathalie Baye (Joelle), David Markham (Doctor Nelson), (Bernard the Prop Man), Gaston Joly (Lajoie), Zénaïde Rossi (Madame Lajoie); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Marcel Berbert; Warner Home Video; 1973-France/Italy-in English)
“It might not be a great film or one of Truffaut’s arty ones, but it’s entertaining, observant and witty.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The title refers to shooting a night scene in daylight by means of a special filter, according to the Americans. The film offers an insider’s playful look at how a studio shoots a film (for one thing, we see how rain and snow are manufactured) and how it’s a communal effort; it serves best as a valentine to cinema. François Truffaut (“The Wild Child”/” Bed and Board”/”The 400 Blows”) shoots it as a lightweight sentimental comedy that glows in his love for movies; he also stars in the part of the resourceful director (it’s fun watching him direct the film-within-the-film, which makes it essential for fans of the director).
It’s scripted by Truffaut, Jean-Louis Richard and Suzanne Schiffman. Truffaut’s character is shooting a film entitled “Meet Pamela” at the Victorine Studios in Nice, and is subject to budget constraints, a rigid seven week shooting schedule, a Hollywood starlet (Jacqueline Bisset) who recently had a nervous breakdown and is the film’s star, an actress (Alexandra Stewart) who unexpectedly shows up three months pregnant and has an iron-clad contract stipulating she can’t be fired, an aging former star (Valentina Cortese) who can’t remember her lines because she’s become a boozer, the youthful lead (Jean-Pierre Léaud) who is immature and throws adolescent fits, an older distinguished actor hiding that he’s gay (Jean-Pierre Aumont) and a kitten who won’t drink its milk on cue. What story there is concerns all the emotional upsets among the film crew and actors, the logistical difficulties and the feeling of joy when you think you got something that’s good in the can. For Truffaut, his love for his craft is not to be questioned despite all the problems that come up during shooting.
Bernard Menez has a nice role as the jack-of-all-trades prop man, Dani is the hotblooded script girl who jilts Léaud for an English stuntman (which throws the depressed actor into the arms of the married leading lady), Jean Champion plays the producer who keeps his cool during all the critical moments over money and insurance problems and Nathalie Baye does well in her debut film role as the continuity assistant who has a quickie with the prop man.
The film asks the big question “Are films more important than life?” The answer is, of course, yes. The director says personal problems are secondary to the film. The joke is that the melodrama being shot looks like a real turkey.
It might not be a great film or one of Truffaut’s arty ones, but it’s entertaining, observant and witty.
REVIEWED ON 6/17/2007 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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