The opening scene of Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night is something we have seen many times; it is a crowd scene. Watch further, however, and one realizes that it is really a crowd scene being shot for a film called Meet Pamela. Truffaut himself (who gives a wonderful performance) is the director of this movie within a movie. He stars alongside a great team of actors and actresses, including Jean-Pierre Aumont, Valentina Cortese, Jean-Pierre Leaud, and Jacqueline Bisset, who all play members of the movie-making process.
Truffaut’s direction is masterful, as he successfully shows his audience the workings of filmmakers, as well as “movie within a movie” scenes. Many directors would struggle with these scenes, but here they are pulled off with what seems to be ease from the director. Much of this can probably be credited to Truffaut’s experience and expertise. The best kind of movie about cinema, seems to be that of one who is very familiar with movie-making as a process.
Instead of primarily showing the technical aspects of making a film, Truffaut displays behind the scenes aspects that go into the movie’s production. Not everything goes smoothly in the studio. A main actor dies in a car crash and must be replaced, scenes must be re-shot, cast and crew members go through romantic problems and adultery, an actress has an emotional breakdown, and executives experience worry and nightmares. There is even a scene where the crew becomes overly frustrated as a stubborn cat refuses to drink milk for an important camera shot.
As rough as much of this seems, Truffaut is intent on making each character likable, no matter what flaws he or she has. These characters serve the purpose of showing Truffaut’s love for film. One scene shows a pile of books being taken out of a bag, each one about a different movie director. A dream sequence shows a young boy collecting photos from Citizen Kane from off of a wall. Such scenes here are typical, and show the beauty and magic of film. This is a wonderful movie about movies.
Day for Night is Truffaut’s love letter to cinema, and reminds us why we go to the movies. It features a unique perspective into things that go on behind the scenes with a studio and crew, and pulls through as a good movie, itself. While more of a fun romp than some of Truffaut’s other projects, this film is exactly what it sets out to be; a very well crafted, extremely entertaining piece of celluloid.