Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 213: Day For Night

Day for Night La Nuit Americaine

Back in the 1970’s, I had this sophisticated New York girlfriend. By that I mean she’d lived all over the world and comfortably conversed in a half dozen languages while I was still struggling to find the right words in one. She also knew more about foreign films than anybody I’d met before or have encountered since.

One night when I was in the Big Apple, she announced she was taking me to see “the new Truffaut” at a nearby art house.

I knew who Francois Truffaut was. I’d spent the requisite hours familiarizing myself with the French “New Wave” and frankly, back then “The 400 Blows” and “Jules and Jim” did not deliver the kind of movie experience I either understood or appreciated.

I figured the film would be a bit of a slog. But I liked going to movies and I liked her, so off we went.

By the end of the opening shot, I was enthralled. And when the final credits rolled I loved the thought of making movies more than I ever had before.

The title of Francois Truffaut’s “La Nuit American” is the French term for underexposing exterior scenes (usually shot in bright sunlight) so they appear to be taking place at night. Day for Night.

It also reflects some of the film’s themes, “What’s more important, life or art?” and “Where does the real world end and fantasy begin?”

When you make a film, the intensity of the work, the long hours and personal demands made by the schedule soon warp the reality you used to live in.

Your life prior to joining the company and commencing production fades into the background as the borders of a new reality take shape around you.

The work becomes all-encompassing and your co-workers become your family. Like soldiers in combat, cops in a rough neighborhood or a team in the playoffs, little exists beyond the task at hand.

But “Day for Night” is also a passionate recreation of the sheer joy of making a film, particularly in a montage sequence that blossoms at a point when the lives of the cast and crew are showing the pressure of the Real vs Unreal conflict.

There is simply no more beautiful film about the making of film.

If you haven’t ever seen “Day For Night”, do something wonderful for yourself and see it. If all else fails, it is available in its entirety on Youtube.

And to either whet your appetite or remind you of what makes movie making so damn special, here is a short documentary on the making of the film followed by that memorable montage.

Enjoy Your Sunday…

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