Day for Night / Nuit Américaine, Le (1973)
“Shooting a movie is like a stagecoach ride in the old west. At first you hope for a nice trip; soon you just hope to reach your destination.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
Regardless, Day for Night remains a delightfully absorbing backstage drama, one which almost instantly makes us (as viewers) regret any criticism we heap upon “poor” filmmakers, given what a miracle it apparently is that anything noteworthy ever emerges from their efforts. In addition to a classic scene involving a kitten who refuses to drink the milk placed in front of it, the most memorable instance of such insanity is the tragic yet hilarious extended sequence in which drunk Cortese attempts in vain to remember her lines and open up the correct door; to that end, Cortese perfectly embodies an aging diva desperate to maintain her dignity while clearly on the path towards irreparable decline, and Jean-Pierre Aumont is equally well-cast as her past-and-present romantic co-star. Much less involving is the storyline involving Leaud’s callow, self-absorbed young star; his single-minded passion for a free-spirited young woman (Dani) is simply a distraction. However, Bisset gives a fine, vulnerable performance as the female star of the film, who doesn’t arrive on set until fairly late in the film but remains a dominant presence. She’s never been lovelier (and her French is quite remarkable).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)
One thought on “Day for Night / Nuit Américaine, Le (1973)”
An alternate response: skip it.
I’d seen this around the time of its release – didn’t like it then and this viewing years later hasn’t changed my mind. If a filmmaker decides to make a film about making a film (a very tricky thing to do), its chances of succeeding rely heavily on a specific POV that makes the film compelling. It can work (i.e., ‘8 1/2’, ‘Stardust Memories’) if the film doesn’t come off as impersonal (as ‘Day for Night’ does) and, as a result, actually has something to say.
Overall, Truffaut (aside from the few films he made about children) is a cold, impersonal filmmaker. When that worked in his favor (and matched the material properly), he made his best films (in my opinion – and I’ve noted thoughts on that in previous entries about his work).
But ‘Day for Night’ has a more clinical interest in the technical aspects of how a film is made. Even when it has its focus on interpersonal relationships, it’s not particularly convincing. (And, of course, Leaud – being a terribly one-dull-note actor – doesn’t help.)
To make matters worse, the film-within-the-film that everyone is working on (‘Meet Pamela’) is tepid beyond belief.
All that said… the film won a Best Foreign Film Oscar. My guess is that it was perceived as a kind of ‘valentine to the cinema’. And perhaps that was even Truffaut’s intent. But personally I find it a crashing bore.