François Roland Truffaut (6 February 1932 21 October 1984) was an influential French filmmaker and occasional actor. He is hailed as one of the progenitors of the French New Wave, and as one of the greatest directors of all time.
Truffaut is probably most famous for his first autobiographical film, The 400 Blows, which helped bring in the New Wave and was the first of several films featuring the character Antoine Doinel. He is also notable for directing the adaptation of Ray Bradbury's book Fahrenheit 451 — his only English-language film. To do so, he turned down the chance to direct the landmark film Bonnie and Clyde, but inadvertently set Warren Beatty on the course of not only starring in it, but producing it and getting Arthur Penn direct it instead. In this manner, Truffaut could be said to have helped spark the New Hollywood era of American film in a roundabout way.
In 1973, he made Day for Night (La Nuit Americaine) a movie about the making of a movie, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, making him the only director of his group to recieve that honour.
He did an extensive series of interviews with friend and idol Alfred Hitchcock in 1962, which were published in English as Hitchcock/Truffaut four years later. To this day the book is an interesting insight into the world of movie making and the mindset of one of the 20th Century's greatest directors, and which went on to influence many film professionals such as Wes Anderson, Peter Bogdanovich, David Fincher and others. The interviews themselves became the subject of a 2015 documentary film, also called Hitchcock/Truffaut.
A general audience would most likely recognize him as the French scientist Lacombe from Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, his only English-language acting role and the only one in a film he didn't direct himself.
- The Adventures of Antoine Doinel series (1959-1970)
- Shoot the Piano Player (Tirez sur le pianiste) (1960)
- Jules and Jim (Jules et Jim) (1962)
- The Soft Skin (La peau douce) (1964)
- Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
- The Bride Wore Black (La Mariée était en noir) (1968)
- Mississippi Mermaid (La sirène du Mississipi) (1969)
- The Wild Child (L'Enfant sauvage) (1970)
- Two English Girls (Les Deux anglaises et le continent) (1971)
- Day for Night (La Nuit américaine) (1973)
- The Story of Adele H (L'Histoire d'Adèle H.) (1975)
- Small Change (1976)
- The Man Who Loved Women (1977)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind [Actor only- Claude Lacombe] (1977)
- The Green Room (1978)
- The Last Metro (Le Dernier métro) (1980)
- The Woman Next Door (La Femme d'à Côté) (1981)
- Confidentially Yours (Vivement dimanche!) (1983)
- Hitchcock/Truffaut (1966): A series of interviews with Hitchcock with Helen Scott serving as Truffaut's translator. This is considered in many circles, by the likes of Steven Soderbergh among others, to be the best book on cinema of all time. It was the subject of a 2015 documentary by Kent Jones, which discussed the book with its fans: David Fincher, Wes Anderson among others. Note the official title of the book in English was Hitchcock by Truffaut and in France it was Le Cinéma selon Alfred Hitchcock ("The Cinema according to Alfred Hitchcock")note .
- The Films in My Life (1981): An anthology of his selected film criticism from his Cahiers days, translated in English by Leonard Mayhew. It's famous for Truffaut's declaration in the introduction:Today, I demand that a film express either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not at all interested in anything in between; I am not interested in all those films that do not pulse.
- Biopic: Two of his films The Wild Child and The Story of Adele H. were historical films on the real-life figures of Victor of Ayeron/Jean Itard and Adele, the daughter of Victor Hugo.
- Bookworm: Books, along with movies and girls are major Author Appeal for Truffaut. He disliked science fiction but jumped on adapting Fahrenheit 451 because he loved the theme of the importance of books and the film is filled with Scenery Porn and Scenery Gorn of books and pages which are beautiful even when it burns.
- Caustic Critic: Truffaut had this reputation in France, once called "the Gravedigger of the French Cinema." He was banned from attending the Cannes Film Festival for constantly giving poor reviews to local French films. The next year, he came to Cannes as a director and won an award. Truffaut for his part believed he was a Compassionate Critic:Truffaut: Was I a good critic? I don't know. But one thing I am sure of is that I was always on the side of those who were hissed and against those who were hissing; and that my enjoyment often began where that of others left off: Renoir's changes of tone, Orson Welles's excesses, Pagnol's or Guitry's carelessness, Bresson's nakedness. I think there was no trace of snobbery in my tastes. I always agreed with Audiberti: 'The most obscure poem is addressed to everybody.' Whether or not they were called commercial, I knew that all movies were commodities to be bought and sold. I saw plenty of differences in degree, but not in kind. I felt the same admiration for Kelly and Donen's SINGIN' IN THE RAIN as for Carl Dreyer's ORDET.
- Children Are Ambiguously Innocent: Truffaut's films showed childhood with a lack of sentimentalism and took children very seriously. Antoine Doinel, the anti-hero of Les 400 Coups was a highly complex character, certainly not a Creepy Child but not entirely The Cutie either, occupying a rarely shown middle ground.
- The Wild Child dealt with the case of the real life Feral Child showing a doctor(played by Truffaut himself) tried to reintegrate him to society.
- Face of the Band: For the entire French New Wave. He was the most famous to American audiences and the general public and the only one to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. In his early years, Truffaut used his fame to promote his friends work.
- The Film of the Book: A large number of his films are adaptations of books by American and French authors. Shoot the Piano Player adapts David Goodis' Down There, The Green Room comes from Henry James' The Altar of the Dead, and Henri-Pierre Roché's books were adapted into Two English Girls and Jules and Jim, likewise Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
- Let's See YOU Do Better!: He and his friends were the greatest aversions. They were not only great critics, pioneering interviews with film directors (and among the first to use tape recorders) as well as research into production and fact-checking but they were also great directors in their own right.
- Genre-Busting: The French New Wave were big believers in this. Truffaut as a critic prized films which did this like Johnny Guitar and as a director he made films which jumped and shifted in moods and tones all the time. His film Shoot the Piano Player was incredibly famous for this, anticipating many of the gimmicks popularized by Pulp Fiction.
- Genre Roulette: Made dramas (The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim), gangster films (Shoot the Piano Player), romantic comedies (Stolen Kisses, The Man Who Loved Women), thrillers (The Soft Skin, Mississippi Mermaid, The Bride Wore Black, Confidentially Yours), science fiction (Fahrenheit 451), biopics (The Wild Child, The Story of Adele H), and period pieces (Two English Girls, The Last Metro).
- Gratuitous English: Truffaut always regretted never fully mastering English, despite his great desire to learn the language (even claiming, half-seriously, that he acted in Spielberg's film to pick up the language), as such his films are filled with snatches of English dialogue. One scene in Stolen Kisses has Antoine Doinel learning English by speaking to himself in the mirror. He did make one English film, Fahrenheit 451, and later, Truffaut's Adele H. chronicling set in Nova Scotia, Canada, which was mostly in English.
- The Mentor: He had a collection of them. The founder of the magazine Cahiers du Cinema Andre Bazin was a Parental Substitute to Truffaut, rescuing him from Military Prison and taking him under his wing. Truffaut later cited Roberto Rossellini as the "Father of the New Wave". And Alfred Hitchcock was so important to him that he worked with him on a book-length series of interviews, Hitchcock/Truffaut which played a major role in changing people's mind about the master of suspense.
- Truffaut himself served as this to Jean-Pierre Léaud the child actor of Les 400 Coups who went on to become a great actor, and regular collaborator.
- Mood Whiplash: Jules and Jim is entirely this. Shifting from happy to sad, serious to comic almost in the same breath and sometimes all at once. This was something he extended to many of his films and which he did with aplomb.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In the 50s/60s he was a friend and colleague of Jean-Luc Godard, but when Godard became much more radical in the late 60s, their friendship began to fracture. When Godard saw Day for Night he hated it, walked out and wrote to Truffaut, calling it a "lie". Truffaut wrote Godard a twenty page letter, calling him out for being a Jerkass, a bad friend and a hypocritical Bourgeois Bohemian. They never spoke again, but when Truffaut's letters were published after his death, Godard contributed a foreword in which he fondly remembered going to see old movies with Truffaut back in the 50s.