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New Left Review I/31, May-June 1965

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith

Francois Truffaut

If Godard is the most difficult, Truffaut is the most elusive of all the directors of the one-time New Wave. As a man and as a director he seems given over to self-contradiction, and his career to date appears to be an intricate web of unresolved paradoxes. He started out as a critic and as a leading propagandist of the politique des auteurs. But since he took up film-making he has done everything he can in his films, and in interviews with guileless journalists, to abjure both the theory and practice of authorship as propounded in his criticism. As a critic, he began by violently attacking the old ‘quality tradition’ of the French cinema, as exemplified by Carné, Duvivier, Delannoy. His latest film, La Peau Douce, looks however, at first sight, almost like a run-of-the-mill production of the hated Delannoy—with the difference that, whereas Delannoy has nothing to say and says it badly, Truffaut at least by common consent says his nothing extremely well. More serious is the apparent inconsistency of his films with each other, the variations of style and thematic material which seem to resist the attempts of interpreters to reconstruct a coherent picture of a personality behind the series of masks which the films create.

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Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, ‘Francois Truffaut’, NLR I/31: £3

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