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Day For Night

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Alphonse’s fiancée has run off with the stuntman. The young actor is heartbroken and won’t leave his hotel room. When he does, it’s in the middle of the night, he’s wearing nothing but a nightshirt, and he greets his co-stars and crew with a ribald statement of comic fact: “I need money to go to a whorehouse.” Only French New Wave poster-boy Jean-Pierre Léaud can deliver this line with such benign insouciance, and only Francois Truffaut, always the most bittersweet director of the French New Wave, could make a movie in which romantic leapfrogging on the set of a movie production could proceed with such matter-of-fact brio. For 1973’s Day for Night Truffaut co-writes, directs, and stars as Ferrand, a director dealing with a never-ending series of minor calamities in the production of his latest movie. Titled Meet Pamela, it’s an understated lampoon of a French melodrama about a young man, played by Léaud’s Alphonse, who brings his fiancee (played by Jacqueline Bisset’s Julie) home to meet his parents, played by Jean-Pierre Aumont’s Alexandre and Valentina Cortese’s Severine, and the fiancée and father begin a fiery affair. (Yes: Louis Malle kinda made that very movie in 1992 and called it Damage.) Getting Pamela made, though, is a minor miracle: Severine likes her sauce and forgets her lines, Julie is rumored to be getting over a bit of a nervous breakdown, the local production manager’s wife is always hanging around the set, an actress shows up for her small role trying to hide her pregnancy, and you might be surprised to find out how hard it is to get a cat to drink milk from a saucer on set. A giant kiss to the tempestuous affair that is filmmaking, made by one of the most cinema-adoring directors of all time.

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