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Day for Night

"Truffaut's warm, humane film...a touching and funny account of the travails involved in the making of an international all-start picture." Among films on film-making, "this is the one I love and among its many delights is a brief appearance of Graham Greene."

(Philip French, The Observer)

With Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Leaud and Francois Truffat.


Day for Night, also known as la nuit américaine (also the title of the film for its French release), is the name for cinematographic techniques used to simulate a night scene.

La Nuit américaine chronicles the production of Je Vous Présente Paméla (Meet Pamela), a clichéd melodrama starring ageing screen icon, Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Aumont), former diva Séverine (Valentina Cortese), young heart-throb Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and a British actress, Julie Baker (Jacqueline Bisset) who is recovering from both a nervous breakdown and the controversy leading to her marriage with her much older doctor. In between are several small vignettes chronicling the stories of the crew-members and the director, Ferrand (Truffaut himself), who tangles with the practical problems one deals with when making a movie. Behind the camera, the actors and crew go through several romances, affairs, break-ups, and sorrows. The production is especially shaken up when Alphonse's fiancee leaves him for the film's stuntman (which leads him to a one night stand with Julie) when one of the secondary actresses is revealed to be pregnant, and when Alexandre is killed suddenly in a car crash.

The film makes many allusions both to film-making and to movies themselves (perhaps unsurprising given that Truffaut began his career as a film critic who championed cinema as an art form). The film opens with a picture of Lillian and Dorothy Gish, to whom it is dedicated. In one scene, Ferrand opens a package of books he had ordered: they are books on directors he admires such as Luis Buñuel, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Ingmar Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean-Luc Godard, Ernst Lubitsch, Roberto Rossellini and Robert Bresson.

The writer Graham Greene has a cameo appearance as an insurance company representative in the film, credited as "Henry Graham". It is reported that Greene was a big admirer of Truffaut, and had always wanted to meet him, so he was delighted to take a small part where he actually talks to the director. It was reported that Truffaut was unhappy he wasn't told (until later) that the actor playing the insurance company representative was Greene. He would have liked to have said hello, as he had admired Greene's work as well.

Film Friday,
1 Oct 2011, 09:48