Modern Matinees: Hitchcock/Truffaut

In 1962, an American journalist asked French film director Francois Truffaut (1932–1984) a provocative question: Why do French critics take Alfred Hitchcock’s films so seriously? Truffaut, convinced that Hitchcock’s inclination toward jocular replies to sincere questions cast him in an unflattering light with the media and his peers, resolved to set the record straight. He wrote, “It occurred to me that if he would, for the first time, agree to respond seriously to a systematic questionnaire, the resulting document might modify the American critics’ approach to Hitchcock.”

Truffaut had met Hitchcock (1899–1980) once before, in 1955, during production on Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief in the South of France. The meeting was something of a catastrophe, as Truffaut and his buddy, the director Claude Chabrol, accidentally fell into a fountain in advance of their appointment with Hitchcock. Despite this rocky footing, Hitchcock agreed to 50 hours of interviews with Truffaut, consisting of 500 questions about his career, in chronological order. Questions were limited to the genesis of each film, the preparation of the scripts, and directorial complications. Truffaut capped the interview with Hitchcock’s own candid expectations for the commercial and artistic success of each film.

The first edition of Hitchcock/Truffaut was published in 1967 (with a revised edition in 1983), and it remains an invaluable guide for fans, filmmakers, and critics. This series, drawn primarily from MoMA’s collection, includes an array of films discussed in the book, accompanied by readings from pertinent passages.

Organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film.