From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Truffaut was born out of wedlock in Paris, where he was raised by his mother and his adoptive father, Roland Truffaut, both of whom were devout Catholics. He never met his biological father Roland Lévy, a Jewish dentist. Truffaut had a difficult childhood that resulted in rebellion against his parents in particular and authority in general. Truffaut reported that his film The 400 Blows (1959) was largely autobiographical. His love of films partly came from his elective father, the writer and critic André Bazin, to whom The 400 Blows is dedicated.
Cahiers du cinéma
Truffaut came to filmmaking only after an early career as one of the most outspoken film critics in France, writing for Bazin's Cahiers du cinéma (of which he became an editor in 1953). Cahiers at this time was intensely critical of post-war French cinema which it saw as overtly literary at the time. As a result of the severity of his critiques, Truffaut was refused a press pass to the 1958 Cannes film festival. The dynamics of relationships are a common thread throughout most of his films.
Along with his Cahiers colleagues, including Jean-Luc Godard and Éric Rohmer, Truffaut was enamoured with Hollywood filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock, Nicholas Ray and Howard Hawks, then often dismissed as mere genre film makers. In a 1954 article Truffaut expounded the politique des auteurs, or Auteur theory of cinema, which championed the idea that movies should reflect the personal vision and preoccupations of the director.
On October 29, 1957, he married Madeleine Morgenstern at the city hall in Paris. The couple had two children, Laura (b. January 22, 1959) and Eva (b. June 29, 1961). His father-in-law, a film producer and distributor, helped to get Truffaut's career off the ground by financing the making of his first film, the short Les Mistons (1958). He and Morgenstern divorced in 1965. In 1983, he had a daughter with actress and constant companion, Fanny Ardant, Joséphine Truffaut, who was born on September 28, 1983, a year before his death.
Truffaut was an expert on Sir Alfred Hitchcock, even publishing the book Le Cinéma selon Alfred Hitchcock (1962, also known as Hitchcock/Truffaut) which recorded interviews and conversations with Hitchcock. His last film Confidentially Yours, a comedy thriller in black and white, could be considered to be an homage to Hitchcock.
Truffaut's 1973 production of Day for Night won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Truffaut sometimes appeared as an actor in his own films, and appeared in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Truffaut suffered from a brain tumour which was diagnosed in 1983. He died shortly thereafter in the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine at the age of 52. He was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.
Among Truffaut's films one can discern a series featuring the character Antoine Doinel, played by the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud who began his career in The 400 Blows at the age of fourteen, continuing as the favourite actor and "double" of Truffaut himself. The series would continue with Antoine and Colette (a short film in the anthology Love at Twenty), Stolen Kisses, Bed and Board and finally Love on the Run
In most of these movies, Léaud's partner is Truffaut's favourite actress Claude Jade as his girlfriend (and then wife), "Christine Darbon".
A keen reader, Truffaut adapted many literary works:
- American detective novels:
- Novels by Henri-Pierre Roché:
- A science fiction novel:
- A short story:
Truffaut's other films result from original screenplays, often co-written by the screenwriters Suzanne Schiffman or Jean Gruault, films on very diverse subjects, the sombre The Story of Adele H., inspired by the life of the daughter of Victor Hugo, with Isabelle Adjani, or Day for Night, shot at the Studio La Victorine describing the ups and downs of film-making, or The Last Metro, set during the German occupation of France, a film rewarded by ten César Awards.