Truffaut: A Biography

Antoine De Baecque, Author, S. Toubiana, Author, Antoine De Baecque, Author Alfred A. Knopf $30 (480p) ISBN 978-0-375-40089-6
When Steven Spielberg directed Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1976, he cast Franois Truffaut, the celebrated 44-year-old innovator of French new wave cinema, as a scientist specializing in UFOs. I needed, Spielberg recalled, a man who would have the soul of a child. In this extensively researched biography, film historians de Baecque and Toubiana dont fully capture the Truffaut whom Spielberg seemed to grasp so intuitively. An autodidact and teenage movie fanatic, Truffaut did a stint at a juvenile prison before being taken under the wing of film critic Andr Bazin, who helped launch his career. An illegitimate child, having never learned to bond, he seems to have also sought compensation in compulsive philandering. Truffaut was notorious for bedding beautiful women, usually actresses in his films, but every relationship (with the exception of that with his divorced wife, Madeleine, who was as loyal as he was faithless) was brief. De Baecque and Toubiana identify this drive, this thirst, this voracious need to seduce only in terms of his imposing his own style. Yet their most poignant pages show Truffaut, having found his real father through a private detective, spying on the old man as he takes his nightly walk. Truffauts courage failed him; rather than introduce himself, he fled to the darkness of a nearby cinema and watched an old Chaplin film. When Truffaut died at 52 in 1984, he was celebrated for what the authors call his hallmark style, defined here as often carefully orchestrated improvisation. Today his reputation is based upon a few significant successesamong them The 400 Blows (1959), Jules and Jim (1962) and The Last Mtro (1980)and many forgettable failures. Some fans may pick up Truffauts biography solely for its survey of his work, but the life that shaped it, though only partially realized here, is moving in its pathos. 68 b&w illustrations. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
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