Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"LA NUIT AMERICAINE"
("DAY FOR NIGHT")


Jacqueline Bisset, Francois Truffaut, Jean Pierre Leaud, Jean Pierre Aumont, Valentina Cortese, Nathalie Baye

Je vous presente Pamela



Instead of fretting endlessly over the slow Internet connection in this part of the globe (after the Taiwan earthquake last month damaged the telecommunication cables located under the vast ocean), I decided to just park myself in front of the TV, last night. Since I was in the mood to read some subtitles, I picked this Francois Tuffaut cinematic classic among my growing collection of foreign language movies.

A movie about 'the making' of a movie. Ferrand (played by Truffaut) is the director of "Je vous presente Pamela" ("May I introduce Pamela") a film movie about a newly married woman who eventually runs off with her father in law.

His cast in the "Pamela" film is an ensemble of actors with their own real life theatrics which affect their performance on the film. A young British actress (played by a young Jacqueline Bisset) recovering from depression, an older actress with a drinking problem so she forgets her lines. A charming Lothario type plays Pamela's father in law and Alphonse, an insecurely jealous actor who guards his girlfriend (a script reader) like a hawk on the set plays the husband of Pamela. We also watch the true 'stars' involved behind the scenes like the props man, the production assistant, the make up artist and the camera guys who ensure the balance and smooth flow of every aspect in the film making process.


But more so it is the director who reigns as the 'king'. He is the guy always in demand and he gets asked the most questions - from the background music vital to one scene to the wig one of the leading stars must wear. He is constantly harassed by the producer to finish shooting the movie on schedule. As well as deal with union and insurance issues. He patiently needs to cater to the whims of his stars. I was clearly impressed by his attitude of always maintaining a very calm demeanor. Not flaring up when things went wrong. In the course of shooting the film, several conflicts arise and how he handles every obstacle is an interesting look into the rigors involved in film making. Ferrand described the experience with this quote "Making a film is like a stagecoach ride in the old west. When you start, you are hoping for a pleasant trip. By the halfway point, you just hope to survive."


Through this movie I learned a term they call "la nuit Americaine' (literal translation is "the American night") which is a technique they use during the making of a movie. It means they film a night scene during the day time by improvising on the set. There is also a rather meaningful scene when Ferrand is listening to the final version of his background music over the phone, he opens a package of his reading materials - some books on notable directors like Bergman, Godard, Fellini, Hitchcock, Orson Welles to mention a few. It shows that directors do a lot of research and they draw their inspiration from other more acclaimed directors in the film industry. Ferrand also expresses some concern over the fact that movie "The Godfather" was presently showing all over Nice and it was raking at the box office to the detriment of the other films being shown at the same time.


This film is an interesting showcase into an era when movies were still appreciated as a art form. The setting was in the early 70s, a time when they didn't rely on computers and there were still stuntmen to do the daring action scenes. It is a must see for film enthusiasts who truly appreciate the art of cinema. Knowing fully well that movies isn't just about the big stars in front of the camera. That more essentially it is about the little people who work behind the scenes that really matter in the grand scheme of things, cinema wise.

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