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Truffaut — Provisional, Definitive

At first a critic, famous for his essay »A Certain tendency of the French Cinema«, already with his first feature film, the short film Les mistons (1958), Truffaut demonstrated the skill of meaning shading with subtle mise en scene methods, fitted rhythm and lighting and the critical use of narrative and presentation conventions which determine his entire opus. Mostly working with his permanent collaborators, for example the director’s assistant Suzanne Schiffman, the composer Georges Delerue, the cameramen Raoul Coutard and Nestor Almendros and the actor Jean-Pierre Leaud, and always within his company, he said he made only the films he wanted to make.

The presentation of protagonists’ intentions to establish themselves within the symbolic order — the school (Les quatre cents coups), the army (Baisers volés), the father authority (L’Histoire d’Ad#le H.), the scientific discourse (Une belle fille comme moi), the film industry (La nuit américaine), the totalitarian society (Fahrenheit 451, Le Dernier métro) or the civilization in general (Les mistons) — as well as the juxtaposition of fanatic loyalty in a love relationship to unsteadiness and constant change of partners (Tirez sur le pianiste, Jules et Jim, La peau douce, La mariée était en noir, La sir#ne du Mississipi, Les deux Anglaises et le continent, L’homme qui aimait les femmes, La chambre verte, La femme d’à côt#, Vivement dimanche!), emphasizes the dialectical connection between the given and the desired and by emphasizing the temporary success of provisional solutions as opposed to the limiting and destructive effect of the use of rigid patterns it demonstrates that the adjustment and the adoption of symbolic codes is the only way to establish the identity.

The necessity to surpass binary oppositions, often presented as a disruption of the love couple’s symmetry by introducing the third person, with a structurally open end, as well as the constant subversion of spectators’ expectations, turn the focus to the artificiality of the fictional structure and at the same time demonstrate the impossibility of reaching the definite resolution as a stimulus for further quest. By means of continuous basic structure’s variations through various theme and motif patterns and procedures, Truffaut’s films elaborate the combination of the provisional and the definite as a permanent intention of self-realization within the film tradition in consistence with his own request that »the film should express either the delight or the agony of filming it«.

Tomislav Brlek

Nuit et brouillard — Alain Resnais’ Memento for Our Reality
From Tears to Laughter (Hungarian Films on 1956 Revolution)

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