On Day for Night

09Nov08

In which The Gay Recluse loves Truffaut.

So tonight we watched Day for Night, Francois Truffaut’s 1973 movie about movie-making. Although “day for night” apparently (because what do we know?) refers to a film technique by which a day shot is made to look like the night, it also — at least in the English translation (in French it’s La Nuit Américaine) — encapsulates the sense of confusion and wonder that surrounds any kind of theatrical endeavor in which the pedestrian and tedious hours of the day give way to the giddy swirl of art and performance. Truffaut perfectly captures both the illogical side of making art — the logistical hassles, the crazies, the money troubles — and the pleasures — the camaraderie, the affairs, the laffs — that so often make the inevitable return to “real” life seem so burdensome, particularly for those (like Truffaut, evidement) who only truly live for their art. Truffaut himself stars as the director of the film-within-a-film, and is a pleasure to watch with Jean-Pierre Léaud and Jacqueline Bisset, both of whom radiate a certain early 1970s hedonism built around great-looking hair. It should also be noted that the leading man in the film-within-the-film is an older “ladie’s man” who doesn’t really shock anyone on the set by bringing his younger gay lover along for the ride. (This is really a minor sub-plot, but the de facto manner in which it’s presented is yet another reason to love this film, which resonates with a truth built around the idea that the theatrical world has always lived by different rules than the outside.) Finally for cat lovers, the film has one of the most adorable sequences ever in which the film crew tries to get a kitten to drink milk from a saucer left outside a door. Serious awws and lolz! When the movie abruptly (but appropriately) ends, we feel the same kind of wistful longing to live outside of ourselves for the sake of art, and dread the sad prospect of returning to the work that is everyday life.

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2 Responses to “On Day for Night”

  1. 1 James van Maanen

    Nice resposne to this lovely movie, TGR. As I have noted previously, you could easily turn your skills toward reviewing/criticism. But since there ain’t a living in it, keep that day job. (But, yes, dream of making movies–and art!) ((Maybe someone will want to turn your novel, once published, into film?!))

  2. Thanks, Jim — that’s high praise coming from you! As for a movie version of The Metropolis Case, keep your fingers crossed! After all, stranger things have happened…


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