Francois Truffaut was to become one of France’s most influential film critics, but he was also a superb film producer too, being one of the founders of the French New Wave. For over 25 years he made many films that today make him an icon in the French film industry. This screenwriter, producer and actor, worked on more than twenty five films throughout his career that changed how French films were perceived throughout the world.
In 1948, Francois Truffaut started his own film club and together with Andre Bazin, a film critic and head of a film society in France, they became a force to be reckoned with. Bazin helped Truffaut in his formative years, getting him out of trouble in many ways, including when the young Francois was accused of deserting the French army.
Truffaut went on to become a film critic and editor at Cahiers. He was known for his no-nonsense reviews that were occasionally thought of as quite brutal. This earned him the name ‘The Gravedigger of French Cinema’. He was not invited to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in 1958 because of this. However, with Bazin, he developed what was to become one of the most influential theories of cinema known as the ‘auteur theory’.
It was in 1954 that Truffaut wrote a scathing article ‘Une Certaine Tendance du Cinéma Français’. This was a direct attack on how French films were produced at the time. This caused a storm in the French film world with Truffaut later devising his auteur theory. His view was a film director as indeed the ‘author’ of any film produced and that all great film directors had distinctive styles as well as themes in their works, this included Hitchcock and Renoir, being typical examples.
It took a while for Truffaut’s theory to be accepted, but by the sixties he got the support of an American film critic, Andrew Sarris and then in 1967, Truffaut published an interview he had with Hitchcock, which was a book-length one called Hitchcock/Truffaut. This was well received and bought his theory into the limelight.
Truffaut decided to make his own short films and in 1955 released Une Visite which was soon followed by Les Miston, two years later. After seeing the film ‘Touch of Evil’, he made his grand debut into the big film world with Les Quatre Cents Coups’, the 400 Blows. The film was released in 1959 and won him instant success with a prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Truffaut became a household name with people all over the world, much later on when he appeared in Steven Spielberg’s film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, playing the scientist Claude Lacombe.
Sadly, Francois Truffaut passed away in October 1984, leaving behind him a legacy of wonderful films. Today he is considered an icon of the film industry all over the world, he changed French cinema forever, during his 25 years in the industry.