Francois Truffaut on How Being a Film Critic Helped Him Become a Filmmaker and About The Ultimate Mistake an Amateur Can Make
There is something absolutely fascinating listening to Francois Truffaut in 1967, talking about a young art going through a revolution all the while knowing what was to come afterwards. Truffaut is the filmmaker behind one of my favorite film and my personal favorite from the New Wave’s group, and his story one of those unique trajectory made possible by its Times.
A self-taught youngster who went to the movies to escape darker days during his youth, Truffaut was helped by powerful artists (see 10/06/2013) at key times to become a film critic first and turn his first feature film into a ‘global’ success afterwards. Departing from the way it was done back then, Truffaut was never an assistant, and just went directly from writing passionate film critics to making films. Here is how he feels writing about films helped him becoming a filmmaker :
“To be a film critic helped me a lot because it’s not enough to be a cinephile and to watch a lot of movies. The necessity to write about films pushes you to get better, and forces you to make a mental gymnastic. It’s when you have to sum up a screenplay in ten sentences that you realize its weaknesses or its strength.”
Before his first feature, The 400 Blows, Truffaut directed short films, some of them he quickly decided to never show. In an excellent interview archived by INA, Truffaut mentioned that what makes a good film is that it follows a logic. And here is what he said about his earlier work and amateur work in general:
I started making shorts in 16mm but that shouldn’t be seen. They all had a very common defect shared by many amateurs films: they were extremely pretentious. They didn’t have a screenplay, which is I think, the ultimate sign of arrogance for an amateur, to not even tell a story. That’s why I don’t dare showing those films, even though I learned from them.
Below is the full french video these quote come from. There is something magic about these old interviews, where neither the questions, nor the references match any interviews done today, and the degree of openness and sincerity feels almost foreign too.