The Hitchcock/Truffaut Tapes #4


In its first few minutes, Part Four of The Hitchcock/Truffaut Tapes seems headed in an extremely intriguing direction, as Alfred Hitchcock speaks of the lull his career fell into after two of his better films from the early 1930s, Number Seventeen and Rich and Strange, met with commercial failure. He claims not to have been entirely aware of this decline at the time, however; largely because, to hear him tell it, he'd never lost faith in his fundamental skill as a filmmaker. In the end he was rescued from the Hell of projects such as 1933's Waltzes in Vienna through the intercession of Michael Balcon, who'd produced a number of his films in the Silent era. Balcon, he says, refocused his skill in a more useful direction; putting him on the path that would lead to his mid-30s masterpieces The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage, The 39 Steps and Secret Agent. What's intriguing is the tone of gratitude he displays in speaking of his debt to Balcon. He seems on the verge of a rare expression of emotion . . .

And then François Truffaut (who up till this moment has been silent) jumps in with both feet to ask Hitchcock if The Man Who Knew Too Much was really based in part on some incident involving Winston Churchill.

Terrific.

After this classic of cinephile prioritizing grinds everything to a halt, the excerpt, sad to say, is pure Snoresville. Truffaut confuses the British and American versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much, Hitchcock wearily trots out his warhorse theories on screen Suspense (even pointing out by way of understatement that this is not the first time he's gone into this rap), Helen Scott translates with her mouth full (I think they were eating lunch during this part . . . but one never knows), and the Master of Suspense concludes by complaining about Production Designers who think like Interior Decorators.

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