The Film (4/5)
Truffaut seemed to view the cinema as magic. Even after decades of making cinema in France and in Hollywood he never viewed the cinema as anything less. Day for Night made in 1972, a decade and a half after he burst upon the cinema scene with his boundary expanding debut the 400 Blows is his entry into cinema about the making of cinema. This was a popular form of film throughout the 60's and 70's popularized by directors like Fellini with his 8 1/2, and Fassbinder with Beware of a Holy Whore, and while Fellini would choose to play up the surreal and dreamlike in his film, and Fassbinder would show it as the brutal Hell he thought it could be, Truffaut decided to show the cinema the way he viewed it himself, with a tinge of nostalgia, mixed with drama, and a bit of the magic that brought him into this passionate obsession in the first place.
Of course many of Day for Night's detractors including Truffaut's French New Wave peer Jean-Luc Godard would take issue with this approach, as he, and they would basically be accusing Truffaut of sugar coating the cinematic process. However, Day for Night more than anything else has the sweet sincerity one comes to expect from any other Truffaut movie, and thus Truffaut's film feels true to himself and his other works, even though his subject is cinema itself.
Truffaut was never the most experimental of filmmakers, for every technique like the use of freeze frames and still photographs in his films, Truffaut seemed like the most Hollywood of the French New Wave directors content to make simple, elegant, but entertaining cinema, but with his own charming touch. This is not an insult to his work, as it shows the power and freshness of the New Wave films, while maintaining the accessibility of a classic Hollywood picture. This is true for his earlier films, and this is similarly true for Day for Night.
Day for Night doesn't exactly follow a straight forward narrative typically speaking. We essentially follow Truffaut as he directs a film called Meet Pamela, about a man who falls in love with his soon to be daughter in law. The cast and crew of the film is made up of Alphonse (Truffaut staple Jean-Pierre Leaud), Julie (Jacqueline Bisset), Severine (Valentina Cortese) and many others. The film essentially follows the relationships of the cast and crew of the film as they fall in and out of love, and deal with life on and off the set. The film begins during the filming of a scene, and ends much the same way, and in between Truffaut gives us a look into a self-reflective view into his own process.
Truffaut also seems to get a little self-referential and sentimental. The name Alphonse for example mirrors the name Antoine Doinel sneakily chooses for his own son in Bed and Board made the year before Day for Night. The plot of Meet Pamela offers similarities to Truffaut's 1964 film The Soft Skin, and that's just picking up things on the surface. The cast from Bissett to Leaud and beyond are truly phenomenal and give their all, they have fantastic chemistry with one another, and help bring Truffaut's vision to life.
Criterion presents Truffaut's Day for Night in an excellent 1:67:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The transfer is solid all the way through with the film's natural color scheme coming through nicely, solid blacks, and excellent fine detail. There is a nice grain field at a play that is not intrusive, but has a nice organic feel to it. I will admit there are moments that do feel a bit washed out, but that is probably less to do with the transfer, and more to do with the source material.
Criterion has presented Day for Night with a similarly solid LPCM 1.0 Mono track in French with optional English subtitles. The track is quite suitable for the film with dialogue and score coming through nicely.
Criterion have brought some archival extras from Warner Bros. prior DVD release with some newly created material of there own to create a truly elaborate and fantastic package that should please any fan of Day for Night. There is a visual essay by a film historian, documentaries, new interviews, archival interviews, liners notes (included in the packaging), and a trailer.
The Criterion Collection have done a fantastic job bringing one of Truffuat's finest works to Blu-ray. Day for Night has been given an excellent Blu-ray restoration, and a plethora of extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.