Passion is one among many things that fuels life. If François Truffaut’s film Day for Night was about anything else, then there’s a much more difficult task because it’s a film that feels so in love with everything it presents but in the best way. François Truffaut, being one of the pioneers of the French New Wave with films like The 400 Blows and Jules and Jim, pays his own tribute to films through Day for Night and to those who make movies – a real treat for those who love movies in general. But maybe there’s a key to why Day for Night is anywhere near as powerful as it is. Films like Day for Night seem to make a clear statement about what’s needed most with art and how it reflects perfectly for those who watch – the love letter that films deserved just as much as filmmaking did.
We watch over a production of a film entitled Je Vous Présente Paméla (or, May I Introduce Pamela in a direct English translation, Meet Pamela as translated otherwise). François Truffaut, who directed the film himself, plays this film’s director and Jean-Pierre Léaud, Truffaut’s own frequent collaborator stars as a younger leading actor inside of this film. The story of Meet Pamela is just the same as any other old melodrama that you have been watching on the screen everywhere you go. But even if the film were to be made in that way, Day for Night isn’t only a film that is so much about the making of Meet Pamela. We watch how the story of Meet Pamela finds itself developing over time but in a similar manner what we are witnessing are the comedies and tragedies that come along the way inside of the real world, where art now reflects artists.
It’s not unfamiliar already to note a film being made about filmmaking given as Federico Fellini released his masterpiece 8½ ten years prior to Truffaut’s perspective on the subject, but the sort of experiment we have here plays along different lines. While 8½ feels reflective of ideas trying to find a cohesive path of one’s satisfaction, Day for Night carries a different process. As I note the term “passion” in the first paragraph, it isn’t so much a film about the lives of the people who make a film, going from the actors to the crew. It’s a film about how passion drives oneself to the directions that they take, and how it grows to define a lifestyle. In Day for Night, as made clear by François Truffaut’s presence in front the camera, directing the film in the film, together with his eyes behind the camera, this is where a dedication towards film in general can be found, in both its craft and towards other artists.
This great affinity can be felt all throughout because it isn’t merely a passion that is limited only towards film. But as much as Day for Night looks over what sort of dedication comes into making a film, Truffaut has created a film that shows how passion drives the human condition to where they are and why it finds itself a vital part of one’s own life. Through Truffaut’s own character of Ferrand it becomes abundantly clear where he is allowing the film’s driving force to come along, for the film is soaked inside of its own love and respect for the form. Yet as the film-within-the-film brings tensions along the path before the final product is set to come out, the real joy to Day for Night comes from how it only becomes an allegory in itself for how one’s dedication soon begins to define the lifestyle in which everyone is living, as made clear from the press conferences and small tidbits that come in between the making. The film in itself is a cliched melodrama but not a predictable one, reflecting life as we watch actors, actresses, and crew members all coming together and bring in their own comedies and tragedies.
Yet as I watched Day for Night more and more through all the years I found something were only to strike me much more on a personal level than I would have suspected. At eighteen years old, I’m an aspiring filmmaker and quite frankly, I dedicate a good lot of my own life towards only the best in cinema because as I watch all of the very best, I only find that there is still so much to learn. The time when I came by to watch Day for Night again perhaps was another factor that only affected me all the more for a primary source of where I get my hands on what I watch is only set to disappear from my own personal life. The biggest entertainment retailer chain we know over in Canada is closing down permanently later this year and it almost seemed like me and my own affinity were only going to split further apart. Maybe it still affects me much more than I’m letting it do so, but upon a revisit of Day for Night I found something more affirming as I look back upon past events in my own life: it has all been cheesy melodrama that may not have much meaning in another person’s eyes while it carries loads for those living within.
Films like Day for Night remind us about something that we all need most in order to go a direction in which we wish. But as art reflects our own life, passion is what sets an idea and only leads us down a good road, no matter how big the bumps may be. It’s clear from the outlook that Day for Night is indeed a film for people who truly dedicate themselves to movies, but I feel as if there was something more that François Truffaut wanted to capture than just a love towards films and the people who make them. Art indeed imitates life, but through this sort of metafiction as given to us, it has never felt more blunt. We have it set in mind already what direction we have for our lives because of our outlook. It could easily be described as the definitive love letter towards movies, but deep down it’s about how inspiration draws this sort of creativity and how much we are willing to put only for the best of the best. We live an illusion, a melodrama, a comedy – but only our affinities decide for us whether success is achieved or not.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by François Truffaut
Screenplay by François Truffaut, Suzanne Schiffman, Jean-Louis Richard
Produced by Marcel Berbert
Starring Jacqueline Bisset, Valentina Cortese, Dani, Alexandra Stewart, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Jean Champion, Jean-Pierre Léaud, François Truffaut
Release Year: 1973
Running Time: 115 minutes