CFS Extra is our label for a package of three films in the programme that fall outside the envelope of “recent world cinema”. Over the last few years we have screened films dating from the 1930s to the 1990s, with a different theme linking the films each year. For this season we have decided to take as our theme the work of a single director, and have chosen to focus on François Truffaut.
François Truffaut was born in 1932 and brought up by his grandmother for his first eight years. From early childhood he became obsessed with films, sneaking into cinemas when he did not have the price of admission. At 14, after being expelled from several schools, he decided he would educate himself, watching three movies a day and reading three books a week.
In 1948 he met the critic André Bazin, who became the greatest influence in his early life. In 1950, Truffaut joined the French army, then changed his mind and began trying to escape. Bazin helped him out, finding him a job at his newly-formed magazine Cahiers du cinéma. Truffaut became a prolific and controversial critic, one of the proponents of the auteur theory, which first pinned artistic responsibility for a film on the director.
In 1955 he made a short film, Une Visite, following that up with Les Mistons in 1957. In 1959, came his debut feature, Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows), one of the films deemed to have launched the French New Wave. He directed more than 20 feature films between 1959 and his death, at only 52, in 1984. Many of his films are regarded as classics, so it has not been easy to select only three to represent his work. The first in our series is The 400 Blows. This, like many of his later films, is semi-autobiographical, with the protagonist, Antoine Doinel, standing in place of Truffaut himself. In this film, Doinel is aged 14 and drops out of school, before falling into a life of petty crime.
Truffaut went on to make further films in the Doinel series, and these are worth watching, but the second film in our series is rather different – an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1966), starring Julie Christie and Oskar Werner. Unusually, this one is in English and was made in the UK. An exercise in dystopian science fiction, it envisages a future world where books are banned and firemen are employed to burn them.
The last of our three films is the celebrated Day for Night (1973). This is a film about making a film, with Truffaut himself playing a director struggling with actors and crew in the production of a melodrama entitled Je vous présente Pamela. Truffaut is on top form here and Day for Night is a very clever and funny film.
We hope you will enjoy this small selection from the work of a great director. In order to focus more closely on Truffaut’s films, they will be screened in a consecutive series between 23 January and 20 February 2018.