Skip to main content

Truffaut

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the death of French film director, occasional actor and "auteur" François Truffaut. I got into Truffaut's films through teaching a few of them to my A-level students over the years. We worked on Les 400 Coups, Jules et Jim, La Nuit américaine, Le Dernier métro and La Femme d'à côté. My students and colleagues would gently rib me such was my enthusiasm for Truffaut.

Studying these films, watching all of his others, with the exception of La Chambre verte, I learned a good deal about film-making, the New Wave and about Truffaut himself. Has there has ever been a film-maker whose own life is so intimately tied to his movies?

Only a few of Truffaut's films are great. My own favourites include his first "long métrage" Les 400 Coups, made on a shoestring budget in black and white, and full of references to Truffaut's own childhood. All the clues to his later films are to be found in his portrayal of a young lad who goes off the rails, in particular his fear and idolisation of women.

My other favourite is Jules et Jim, his adaptation of Pierre-Henri Roché's brilliant and original novel which Truffaut came across by accident. I always think that the first 20 minutes of Jeunet's Amélie were strongly influenced by Jules et Jim. The speed, excitement, fluid camera work, the sheer exuberant joy of film-making shine through. Jeanne Moreau, Truffaut's lover at the time, plays the irritatingly headstrong and changeable heroin who two men love like a Goddess simultaneously over many years. Maybe Jules et Jim was Truffaut's masterpiece.

Another favourite of mine is La Nuit américaine (in English Day for Night). This is the one about the making of a film and is a pleasure for any cinephile who desires a real insight into the film-making process. Truffaut himself plays the director, so we get to see him just being himself. This movie also features Jean-Pierre Léaud who, in older age, comes across as a less convincing, more self-conscious actor than he was as Antoine Doinel in Les 400 Coups.

My last favourite is the more conventionally filmed Le Dernier métro, with one of Truffaut's leading lady lovers, Catherine Deneuve alongside Gérard Depardieu.

Truffaut made a few duds, alas. I'm thinking in particular of his Hitchcock homage La Mariée était en noir and the Hollywood-style Mississippi Mermaid. The Antoine Doinel cycle of light comedies leaves me a bit cold too.

Why do so many film watchers revere Truffaut? Part of it is that he did some great, original work when young so his reputation was quickly established. Secondly, people who worked with him and watch his movies love him as a man. His vulnerability, humble and troubled background, care for others, natural modesty, fascination with human beings, especially women, the passionate yet destructive nature of love, alongside his passion for the movies and written words.... all of this can be picked out in his films which in so many ways are about the man himself. So when you watch a Truffaut film you are getting to know the man himself more intimately. In this sense he is the archetypal "auteur".

Truffaut died of a brain tumour at the age of just 52.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


English 

_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

Preparing for GCSE speaking: building a repertoire

As your Y11 classes start their final year of GCSE, one potential danger of moving from Controlled Assessment to terminal assessment of speaking is to believe that in this new regime there will be little place for the rote learning or memorisation of language. While it is true that the amount of learning by heart is likely to go down and that greater use of unrehearsed (spontaneous) should be encouraged, there are undoubtedly some good techniques to help your pupils perform well on the day.

I clearly recall, when I marked speaking tests for AQA 15-20 years ago, that schools whose candidates performed the best were often those who had prepared their students with ready-made short paragraphs of language. Candidates who didn't sound particularly like "natural linguists" (e.g. displaying poor accents) nevertheless got high marks. As far as an examiner is concerned is doesn't matter if every single candidate says that last weekend they went to the cinema, saw a James Bond…

Worried about the new GCSEs?

Twitter and MFL Facebook groups are replete with posts expressing concerns about the new GCSEs and, in particular, the difficulty of the exam, grades and tiers. I can only comment from a distance since I am no longer in the classroom, but I have been through a number of sea changes in assessment over the years so may have something useful to say.

Firstly, as far as general difficulty of papers is concerned, I think it’s fair to say that the new assessment is harder (not necessarily in terms of grades though). This is particularly evident in the writing tasks and speaking test. Although it will still be possible to work in some memorised material in these parts of the exam, there is no doubt that weaker candidates will have more problems coping with the greater requirement for unrehearsed language. Past experience working with average to very able students tells me some, even those with reasonable attainment, will flounder on the written questions in the heat of the moment. Others will…

GCSE and IGCSE revision links 2018

It's coming up to that time of year again. In England and Wales. Here is a handy list of some good interactive revision links for this level. These links are also good for intermediate exams in Scotland, Ireland and other English-speaking countries. You could copy and paste this to print off for students.

Don't forget the GCSE revision material on frenchteacher.net of course! How could you?

As far as apps for students are concerned, I would suggest the Cramit one, Memrise and Learn French which is pretty good for vocabulary. For Android devices try the Learn French Vocabulary Free. For listening, you could suggest Coffee Break French from Radio Lingua Network (iTunes podcasts).

Listening
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/french/ (Foundation/Higher) http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/ (Foundation/Higher)
http://www.audio-lingua.eu/spip.php?rubrique1&lang=fr (Foundation/Higher) http://www.ashcombe.surrey.sch.uk/07-langcoll/MFL-resources/french/fr-video-index.shtml