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Day For Night  
Francois Truffaut
1973 || 115 mins

The production of Je vous presente Pamela (May I Introduce Pamela) has just started and already the director, Ferrand (Francois Truffaut), has an array of problems to contend with. His leading lady Julie (Jacqueline Bisset) is recovering from a nervous breakdown and cannot be insured, while her co-star Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is more interested in romancing the script girl than playing his part. Meanwhile temperamental actress Severine (Valentina Cortese) is having trouble remembering her lines and Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Aumont), a former matinee idol, keeps disappearing to the airport hoping to meet up with his secret male lover. If that wasn’t enough, there are all the million and one practical issues a director has to deal with, such as selecting the right props and costumes, staging a dangerous stunt, and coping with a cat which won’t hit his mark.

see also articles on:
Top 10 Truffaut Movies || Francois Truffaut Profile|| French New Wave History || French New Wave Film Guide

“Making a film is like a stagecoach ride in the old west,” says Francois Truffaut in his role as Ferrand, the director of Je vous presente Pamela. “When you start, you are hoping for a pleasant trip. By the halfway point, you just hope to survive.” As probably the best film ever made about the crazy business of making movies, Day for Night shows how accurate a statement this is. Here for all to see are the upsets, disasters, frustrations and triumphs that go on behind the scenes of any motion picture production.

From the outset Ferrand has his work cut out for him. There are endless decisions to be made and looming crises to deal with. His schedule has been cut to seven weeks, his cast have a variety of personal problems, and, after day one, the lab accidentally destroys a complicated and costly crowd scene. Helping him keep the production on track are the tireless crew lead by the ever-devoted assistant director Joelle (Nathalie Baye). For them loyalty to the production comes ahead of personal concerns. As Joelle says, after the script girl runs off with the stuntman, “I’ve left a guy for a film, but I’ve never left a film for a guy.”

Appropriately for a film named after a technical term for night scenes shot in daylight with a special filter, Day for Night offers us a fascinating insight into the reality behind the artifice of moviemaking. In the “anything is possible” world of the film set, soapsuds stand in for real snow, electric lights become make-believe candles and third-floor balconies hang in the air with nothing beneath them. Like a conjuror revealing the secrets behind his magic, Truffaut shows us the tricks of the filmmaker’s trade, but far from spoiling the illusion, it actually enhances our enjoyment. For once, we the audience, get to share in the moviemaking experience.

Of course Truffaut loved cinema. “People like us are only happy in our work,” his character comments at one point. A statement which certainly applies to himself (one of the best scenes in the film is a dream in which Ferrand remembers himself, as a little boy, stealing a lobby still of Citizen Kane from in front of a cinema) but you don’t have to be a film buff to be caught up in the humour and infectious charm of this movie. Although the tone is light, at the end one has a sense of having seen something profound, a rare quality indeed.

Day for Night was embraced enthusiastically by critics and public alike. It won the 1974 BAFTA Award for Best Film and received four Academy Award nominations, eventually taking home the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

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