Testament of Orpheus

Photos by Lucien Clergue

 

Le testament d’Orphée is a 1960 film directed by and starring Jean Cocteau. It is considered the final part of the Orphic Trilogy, following The Blood of a Poet (1930) and Orphée (1950). In the cast are Charles Aznavour, Lucia Bosé, María Casares, Nicole Courcel, Luis Miguel Dominguín, Daniel Gélin, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Serge Lifar, Jean Marais, François Périer and Françoise Sagan.

It also includes cameo appearances by Pablo Picasso and Yul Brynner. The film is in black-and-white, with just a few seconds of color film spliced in.

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New Amsterdam

Scottish indie pop band Travis. Photo by Stefan Ruiz

 
 

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francois Truffaut,
Robert Zimmerman and de Niro
Paris, Texas – end of the world

New York, New York,
good bye girl

And they meet
on Bleecker Street
or the Park that is Central
oh no
I watched the sun go down
down, down beneath the ground
and it’s a new day,
it’s a new dawn,
in New Amsterdam.

The stranger in the moonlight,
looks stranger in the moonlight

And they meet
on Bleecker Street
or the Park that is Central
oh no
I watched the sun go down
down, down beneath the ground
and it’s a new day,
it’s a new dawn,
in New Amsterdam.

And we meet
on Bleecker Street
or the Park that is Central
oh no
I watched the sun go down
down down beneath the ground
and it’s a new day,
it’s a new dawn,
in New Amsterdam.

Fran Healy

Track #12 from The Boy with No Name (2007)

 
 

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When I Consider…

“When I consider the narrow limits within which our active and inquiring faculties are confined; when I see how all our energies are wasted in providing for mere necessities, which again have no further end than to prolong a wretched existence; and then that all our satisfaction concerning certain subjects of investigation ends in nothing better than a passive resignation… when I consider all this… I am silent.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Sorrows of Young Werther

 
 

François Truffaut at the French Army, circa 1951

Don’t Go Far Off

François Truffaut

 
 

NO TE ALEJES

No estés lejos de mí un sólo día, porque cómo,
porque, no sé decírtelo, es largo el día,
y te estaré esperando como en las estaciones
cuando en alguna parte se durmieron los trenes.

No te vayas por una hora porque entonces
en esa hora se juntan las gotas del desvelo
y tal vez todo el humo que anda buscando casa
venga a matar aún mi corazón perdido.

Ay que no se quebrante tu silueta en la arena,
ay que no vuelen tus párpados en la ausencia:
no te vayas por un minuto, bienamada,

Porque en ese minuto te habrás ido tan lejos
que yo cruzaré toda la tierra preguntando
si volverás o si me dejarás muriendo.

Pablo Neruda

 
 

_____________________________

 
 

Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because —
because — I don’t know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you’ll have gone so far
I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

The Gravedigger of French Cinema

François Truffaut whilst he was in military prison, circa 1951

 
 

After starting his own film club in 1948, François Truffaut met André Bazin, who would have great effect on his professional and personal life. Bazin was a critic and the head of another film society at the time. He became a personal friend of Truffaut’s and helped him out of various financial and criminal situations during his formative years.

Truffaut joined the French Army in 1950, aged 18, but spent the next two years trying to escape. Truffaut was arrested for attempting to desert the army. Bazin used his various political contacts to get Truffaut released and set him up with a job at his newly formed film magazine Cahiers du cinéma. Over the next few years, Truffaut became a critic (and later editor) at Cahiers, where he became notorious for his brutal, unforgiving reviews. He was called “The Gravedigger of French Cinema” and was the only French critic not invited to the Cannes Film Festival in 1958. He supported Andre Bazin in the development of one of the most influential theories of cinema itself, the auteur theory.

In the late 1950s, French New Wave critics, especially Éric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, were among the first to see and promote Alfred Hitchcock‘s films as artistic works. Hitchcock was one of the first directors to whom they applied their auteur theory, which stresses the artistic authority of the director in the film-making process.

As critics for the iconoclastic film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma, Godard and Truffaut had shared a similar aesthetic. Their masters were (besides Hitchcock), Jean Renoir, Roberto Rossellini and Fritz Lang, whose films were underestimated at the time and whom they defended with the pugnacity of young prizefighters.

In an article for Cahiers du Cinéma in 1954, Truffaut posited his “auteur theory”: the idea that certain directors, regardless of whether they wrote their films, were the true authors of their work. They reserved their greatest criticism for postwar French cinema, which Truffaut dismissed as “cinéma du papa” for its tendency to churn out tired over-literary adaptations of classic novels and plays.

Hitchcock And The Wrong Man

Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut. Photo by Philippe Halsman, 1962

 
 

“Two and a half years ago, my friend Claude Chabrol and I met Alfred Hitchcock when we both fell into an icy pond at the Studio Saint-Maurice under the gaze, at first mocking and then compassionate, of the master of anguish. Because we were soaked, it was several hours before we were able to seek him out again with a new tape recorder. The first one had literally drowned; it was ruined.

It was an extremely concise interview. We wanted to persuade Hitchcock that his recent American films were much better than his earlier English ones. It wasn’t very hard: “In London, certain journalists want me to say that everything that comes from America is bad. They are very anti-American in London; I don’t know why, but it’s a fact”. Hitchcock spoke to us about an ideal film one would be projected on one’s living-room wall the same way one might hang a beautiful painting. We “worked” on this film together.

“Would this ideal film be closer to I Confess or to The Lady Vanishes?”

“Oh, to I Confess!”

I Confess?”

“Yes, by all means. For example, right now I’m thinking over an idea for a film that attracts me very much. Two years ago, a musician from the Stork Club in New York, returning home after work at about two in the morning, was accosted by two men at his door who dragged him to a number of different places, including several bars. In each place they asked, ‘Is this the man? Is this the man?’ he was then arrested for several robberies. Although he was completely innocent, he had to go through a trial, and by its end his end had lost her mind. She had to be institutionalized and is to this day. During the trial, one of the jurors, who was convinced of the defendant’s guilt, interrupted the defense lawyer as he was questioning one of the prosecution witnesses; the juror raised his hand and asked the judge, ‘Your honor, do we have to listen to all this?’ It was a small infringement of the ritual, but it caused a mistrial. As preparations were being made for a new trial, the real culprit was arrested and he confessed. I this would make an interesting movie, if we showed everything from the point of view of the innocent man, wha he has to go through, how his head is on the block for anothere’s man crimes.

All the while, everybody is being very friendly, very gentle with him. He insists, ‘I’m innocent’, and everybody answers, ‘Of course you are, sure you are’. Completely horrible. I think I’d like to make a film from this news item. It would be very interesting. You see, in this movie, the innocent man would be in prison all the time, and a reporter or a detective would work to get him out. They never make films from the view of the accused man. I would like to do that.”

A year ago, we learned from the American newspapers that Hitchcock was in the process of making a film called The Wrong Man. One didn’t have to be a mind reader to figure out that it was based on the event we’d discussed.

Hitchcock has never been more himself than in this film, which nevertheless runs the risk of disappointing lovers of suspense and of English humor. There is very little suspense in it and almost no humor, English or otherwise. The Wrong Man is Hitchcock’s most stripped-down film since Lifeboat; it is the roast without the gravy, the news event served up raw and, as Bresson would say, “without adornment”. Hitchcock is no fool. If The Wrong Man, his first black-and-white film since I Confess, is shot inexpensively in the street, subway, the places where the action really occurred, it’s because he knew he was making a difficult and relatively less commercial film than he usually does. When it was finished, Hitchcock was undoubtedly worried, for he renounced his usual cameo in the course of the film, and instead showed us his silhouette before the title appeared to warn us that what he was offering this time was something different, a drama based on fact.

There cannot fail to be comparisons made between The Wrong Man and Robert Bresson’s Un Condamné à mort s’est échappé (A Man Escaped). It would be foolish to assume that this would work to the detriment of Hitchcock’s film, which is sufficiently impressive right from the start not to have to beg for pride of place. The comparison is no less fascinating when pushed to its utmost, to where the divergences between the two movies cast a mutual light on each other.”

François Truffaut

Written circa 1955

Walking Around

François Truffaut (right) and Jean-Pierre Léaud, on the set of his film Baisers Volés, Luxembourg Gardens, Paris (France), February 1968

 
 

Sucede que me canso de ser hombre.
Sucede que entro en las sastrerías y en los cines
marchito, impenetrable, como un cisne de fieltro
navegando en un agua de origen y ceniza.

El olor de las peluquerías me hace llorar a gritos.
Sólo quiero un descanso de piedras o de lana,
sólo quiero no ver establecimientos ni jardines,
ni mercaderías, ni anteojos, ni ascensores.

Sucede que me canso de mis pies y mis uñas
y mi pelo y mi sombra.
Sucede que me canso de ser hombre.

Sin embargo sería delicioso
asustar a un notario con un lirio cortado
o dar muerte a una monja con un golpe de oreja.
Sería bello
ir por las calles con un cuchillo verde
y dando gritos hasta morir de frío.

No quiero seguir siendo raíz en las tinieblas,
vacilante, extendido, tiritando de sueño,
hacia abajo, en las tripas moradas de la tierra,
absorbiendo y pensando, comiendo cada día.

No quiero para mí tantas desgracias.
no quiero continuar de raíz y de tumba,
de subterráneo solo, de bodega con muertos,
aterido, muriéndome de pena.

Por eso el día lunes arde como el petróleo
cuando me ve llegar con mi cara de cárcel,
y aúlla en su transcurso como una rueda herida,
y da pasos de sangre caliente hacia la noche.

Y me empuja a ciertos rincones, a ciertas casas húmedas,
a hospitales donde los huesos salen por la ventana,
a ciertas zapaterías con olor a vinagre,
a calles espantosas como grietas.

Hay pájaros de color de azufre y horribles intestinos
colgando de las puertas de las casas que odio,
hay dentaduras olvidadas en una cafetera,
hay espejos
que debieran haber llorado de vergüenza y espanto,
hay paraguas en todas partes, y venenos, y ombligos.

Yo paseo con calma, con ojos, con zapatos,
con furia, con olvido,
paso, cruzo oficinas y tiendas de ortopedia,
y patios donde hay ropas colgadas de un alambre:
calzoncillos, toallas y camisas que lloran
lentas lágrimas sucias.

Pablo Neruda

1935

 
 

_______________________________________

 
 

It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.

The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse sobs.
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores,no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.

It so happens that I am sick of my feet
and my nails and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.

Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great to go through the streets
with a green knife letting out yells
until I died of the cold.

I don’t want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out,
shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking,
eating every day. I don’t want so much misery.

I don’t want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.

That’s why Monday, when it sees me coming with my convict face,
blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood
leading toward the night.
And it pushes me into certain corners,
into some moist houses,
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.

There are sulphur-colored birds,
and hideous intestines hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms,
and umbilical cords.

I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line: underwear,
towels and shirts from which slow dirty tears are falling.

English Translation by Robert Bly

Celebrating The Films Of Truffaut With New Prints

On October 2014, Nautilus Art Prints, in partnership with la Cinémathèque Française and MK2, presented four new posters celebrating the films of director François Truffaut: Les 400 Coups (1959), Jules et Jim (1962), Le Dernier Métro(1980) and Vivement Dimanche!(1983).

 
 

The 400 Blows by Paul Blow

 
 

Jules and Jim by Mick Wiggins

 
 

The Last Metro by Jonathan Burton

 
 

Confidentially Yours by François Schuiten

No Reason to Go On Much Beyond

“The ideas I get about Antoine Doinel, and the way Léaud plays him, are closely tied to adolescence; there’s something in the character that refuses to grow up. I’m like the silly father who continues to treat his twenty-three-year-old son like a child: “Blow your nose”; “Say hello to the nice lady.” That’s the problem with parents who won’t allow their children to grow up. People who do comic strips have the same problem: they create a character who will be the same age forever. But starting with Bed and Board, the character of Antoine had actually reached adulthood, so there was no reason to go on much beyond that. That’s why the cycle had to come to an end with Love on the Run. It has a deliberately, boldly, even desperately happy ending, unlike the endings of the previous four films in the cycle, all of which were open-ended.”

François Truffaut

 
 

Jean-Pierre Léaud

Children As Center of Gravity

“My favorite Rossellini film is Germany Year Zero [1947], probably because I have a weakness for movies that take childhood, or children, as their subject. Also because Rossellini was the first to depict children truthfully, almost documentary-style, on film. He shows them as serious and pensive—more so than the adults around them—not like picturesque little figures or animals. The child in Germany Year Zero is quite extraordinary in his restraint and simplicity. This was the first time in the cinema that children were portrayed as the center of gravity, while the atmosphere around them is the one that’s frivolous.”

François Truffaut

 
 

Jean-Pierre Léaud and François Truffaut, at Cannes Film Festival, 1966

 
 

French director and screenwriter François Truffaut on the set of his movie L’Argent de poche (Small Change). Photos by Christian Simonpietri, August 1975

 
 

L’Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child), 1970

 
 

From birth François Truffaut was thrown into an undesired situation. As he was born out of wedlock, his birth had to remain a secret because of the social stigma associated with illegitimacy. He was registered as “A child born to an unknown father” in the hospital records. He was looked after by a nurse for an extended period of time. His mother eventually married and her husband Roland gave his surname, Truffaut, to François.

Although he was legally accepted as a legitimate child, his parents did not accept him. The Truffauts had another child who died shortly after birth. This experience saddened them greatly and as a result they despised François because of the memory of regret that he represented. He was an outcast from his earliest years, dismissed as an unwanted child. François was sent to live with his grandparents. It wasn’t until François’s grandmother’s death before his parents took him in, much to the dismay of his own mother. The experiences with his mother were harsh. He recalled being treated badly by her but he found comfort in his father’s laughter and overall spirit. The relationship with Roland was more comforting than the one with his own mother. François had a very depressing childhood after moving in with his parents. They would leave him alone whenever they would go on vacations. He even recalled memories of being alone during Christmas. Being left alone forced François into a sense of independence, he would often do various tasks around the house in order to improve it such as painting or changing the electric outlets. Sadly, these kind gestures often resulted in a catastrophic event causing him to get scolded by his mother. His father would mostly laugh them off.

Truffaut was married to Madeleine Morgenstern from 1957 to 1965, and they had two daughters, Laura (born 1959) and Eva (born 1961). Madeleine was the daughter of Ignace Morgenstern, managing director of one of France’s largest film distribution companies, and was largely responsible for securing funding for Truffaut’s first films. While he had affairs with many of his leading ladies – in 1968 he was the fiancé of Claude Jade – Truffaut and actress Fanny Ardant lived together from 1981 to 1984 and had a daughter, Joséphine Truffaut (born 28 September 1983).

A Sort of Apprenticeship

François Truffaut as a kid

 

“During the war, I saw many films that made me fall in love with the cinema. I’d skip school regularly to see movies—even in the morning, in the small Parisian theaters that opened early. At first, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be a critic or a filmmaker, but I knew it would be something like that. I had thought of writing, actually, and that later on I’d be a novelist. Next I decided I’d be a film critic. Then I gradually started thinking I should make movies. And I think seeing all those films during the war was a sort of apprenticeship.

The New Wave filmmakers, you know, were often criticized for their lack of experience. This movement was made up of people with all kinds of backgrounds—including people like me who had done nothing more than write for Cahiers du cinéma and see thousands of movies. I saw some pictures fourteen or fifteen times, like Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game [1939] and The Golden Coach [1953]. There is a way to see films that can teach you more than working as an assistant director, without the viewing process becoming tedious or academic. Basically, the assistant director is a guy who wants to see how movies are made, but who is constantly prevented from doing just that because he gets sent on errands while the important stuff is taking place in front of the camera. In other words, he is always required to do things that take him away from the set. But in the movie theater, when you see a film for the tenth time or so, a film whose dialogue and music you know by heart, you start to look at how it’s made, and you learn much more than you could as an assistant director.

The first films I truly admired were French ones, like Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Raven [1943] and Marcel Carné’s The Devil’s Envoys [1942]. These are movies I quickly wanted to see more than once. This habit of multiple viewing happened by accident, because first I would see some picture on the sly, and then my parents would say, “Let’s go to the movies tonight,” so then I’d see the same movie again, since I couldn’t say I’d already seen it. But this made me want to see films again and again—so much so that three years after the Liberation, I’d seen The Raven maybe nine or ten times. But after I wound up working at Cahiers du cinéma, I turned away from French film. Friends at the magazine, like Jacques Rivette, thought it absurd that I could recite all of The Raven ’s dialogue and had seen Carné’s The Children of Paradise [1945] fourteen times.”

 

François Truffaut’s Last Interview
by Bert Cardullo

A Series of Painful Memories

The Mischief Makers (François Truffaut, 1956). This short film demonstrates already some examples for Truffaut’s “trademark tracking shots” and would “help define his style” as well as “set Truffaut on a path for his career”.

 
 

“When I was shooting Les Mistons (The Mischief Makers), The 400 Blows already existed in my mind in the form of a short film, which was titled Antoine Runs Away.

 
 

 
 

I was disappointed by Les Mistons, or at least by its brevity. You see, I had come to reject the sort of film made up of several skits or sketches. So I preferred to leave Les Mistons as a short and to take my chances with a full-length film by spinning out the story of Antoine Runs Away. Of the five or six stories I had already outlined, this was my favorite, and it became The 400 Blows.

Antoine Runs Away was a twenty-minute sketch about a boy who plays hooky and, having no note to hand in as an excuse, makes up the story that his mother has died. His lie having been discovered, he does not dare go home and spends the night outdoors. I decided to develop this story with the help of Marcel Moussy, at the time a television writer whose shows for a program called If It Was You were very realistic and very successful. They always dealt with family or social problems. Moussy and I added to the beginning and the end of Antoine’s story until it became a kind of chronicle of a boy’s thirteenth year—of the awkward early teenaged years.

 
 

Notebook containing the first draft of the screenplay for The 400 Blows

 
 

Truffaut searches for a title for his first feature film

 
 

In fact, The 400 Blows became a rather pessimistic film. I can’t really say what the theme is—there is none, perhaps—but one central idea was to depict early adolescence as a difficult time of passage and not to fall into the usual nostalgia about “the good old days,” the salad days of youth. Because, for me in any event, childhood is a series of painful memories. Now, when I feel blue, I tell myself, “I’m an adult. I do as I please,” and that cheers me up right away. But then, childhood seemed like such a hard phase of life; you’re not allowed to make any mistakes. Making a mistake is a crime: you break a plate by mistake and it’s a real offense. That was my approach in The 400 Blows, using a relatively flexible script to leave room for improvisation, mostly provided by the actors. I was very happy in this respect with Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine, who was quite different from the original character I had imagined. And as we improvised more, the film became more pessimistic, then—in brief spurts, as a contrary reaction—so high-spirited that it almost became optimistic.

All I can say is that nothing in it is invented. What didn’t happen to me personally happened to people I know, to boys my age and even to people that I had read about in the papers. Nothing in The 400 Blows is pure fiction, then, but neither is the film a wholly autobiographical work.

There is indeed something anachronistic or composite-like about Antoine Doinel, but it’s difficult for me to define. I don’t really know who he is, except that he is a kind of mixture of Jean-Pierre Léaud and myself. He is a solitary type, a kind of loner who can make you laugh or smile about his misfortunes, and that allows me, through him, to touch on sad matters—but always with a light hand, without melodrama or sentimentality, because Doinel has a kind of courage about him. Yet he is the opposite of an exceptional or extraordinary character; what does differentiate him from average people, however, is that he never settles down into average situations. Doinel is only at ease in extreme situations: of profound disappointment and misery on the one hand, and total exhilaration and enthusiasm on the other. He also preserves a great deal of the childlike in his character, which means that you forget his real age. If he is twenty-eight, as Léaud was in 1972, you look at Doinel as if he were eighteen: a naïf, as it were, but a well-meaning one for all that.”

 

François Truffaut’s Last Interview
by Bert Cardullo

Seeking a Young Alter Ego

“I didn’t like the idea of finding a kid on the street and asking his parents, “Would you let him make a movie with me?” For this first feature film of mine about children, I wanted the children to be willing—both the children and their parents. So I used the ad to get them to come to a studio near the Champs-Elysées, where I was doing 16-mm. screen tests every Thursday. I saw a number of boys, one of whom was Jean-Pierre Léaud. He was more interesting than all the rest, more intense, more frantic even. He really, really wanted the part, and I think that touched me. I could feel during the shoot that the story improved, that the film became better than the screenplay, thanks to him.”

François Truffaut’s Last Interview
by Bert Cardullo

 
 

François Truffaut and Jean-Pierre Léaud on the set of Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959)

 
 

Seeking a young actor to play the autobiographical hero in The 400 Blows – François Truffaut first feature after three short films – Truffaut placed an ad in the newspaper France-Soir. Of the nearly 400 boys who answered, it was 14-year-old Jean-Pierre Léaud who stood out. Son of a screenwriter and an actress, Léaud was also a troubled youth whose school career was shaping up as disastrously as Truffaut’s had. In fact, one of the reasons Truffaut chose Jean-Pierre Léaud for the role of Antoine is his evocation of longing and nervousness. Truffaut notes that in casting Antoine He was looking for a “moral resemblance to the child I thought I had been”.

 
 

To watch Jean-Pierre Léaud’s audition for The 400 Blows, please take a gander at The Genealogy’s of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=aymt_homepage_panel