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François Truffaut

The Lost Secret

Translated by Alistair Fox. Anne Gillain

Publication Year: 2013

For François Truffaut, the lost secret of cinematic art is in the ability to generate emotion and reveal repressed fantasies through cinematic representation. Available in English for the first time, Anne Gillain's François Truffaut: The Lost Secret is considered by many to be the best book on the interpretation of Truffaut's films. Taking a psycho-biographical approach, Gillain shows how Truffaut's creative impulse was anchored in his personal experience of a traumatic childhood that left him lonely and emotionally deprived. In a series of brilliant, nuanced readings of each of his films, she demonstrates how involuntary memories arising from Truffaut's childhood not only furnish a succession of motifs that are repeated from film to film, but also govern every aspect of his mise en scène and cinematic technique.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. 1-7


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface to the English Edition of François Truffaut: The Lost Secret

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pp. ix-xxiii

It is a great pleasure to see the publication in English of François Truffaut: le secret perdu twenty years after it came out in France. I am most grateful to Alistair Fox for his impeccable work as a translator and for his presentation of my book in a most illuminating introduction. I...

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Emotion and the Authorial Fantasmatic: An Introduction to the English Edition of Anne Gillian’s François Truffaut: The Lost Secret

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pp. xxv-xxxvi

Few would dispute the view that François Truffaut was one of the most important influences on cinema in the twentieth century, both as a filmmaker in his own right and as a critic. As one of the young “firebrands” associated with the journal Cahiers du cinéma in the 1950s, he attacked...

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Preface to the Original French Edition: One Secret Can Hide Another

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pp. 1-4

I can still see and hear François in the spring of 1983. We were sharing a light lunch, settled in a corner of his sitting room at la rue Pierre 1er-de-Serbie, which reminded me of that of Mila Parély in The Rules of the Game, surrounded by small-scale models of the Eiffel Tower...

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Introduction: The Secret of the Art

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pp. 5-18

François Truffaut believed that filmmakers from the past were the guardians of a lost secret, a nostalgia which haunted him. His achievement, having studied the art of his predecessors, was to know how to replicate this secret in his films. Since the appearance of his first...

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1. Family Secrets: The 400 Blows (1959), The Woman Next Door (1981)

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pp. 20-49

Truffaut’s films are particularly susceptible to psychoanalytical interpretation. It would be a mistake to view this as merely accidental. Emanating from the unconscious experience of the filmmaker, they manifest, as naturally as a patient on an analyst’s couch, the grand...

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2. Deceptions: Shoot the Piano Player (1960), The Soft Skin (1964)

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pp. 50-78

An artist, an upper-middle-class professional man, two men who are uncomfortable with who they are; a meeting with a new woman, the hope of renewal . . . and, at the end of each story, two gunshots that echo one another. With Shoot the Piano Player and The Soft...

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3. Queen-Women: Jules and Jim (1962), The Last Metro (1980)

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pp. 80-109

Jules and Jim and The Last Metro would seem to have little in common apart from an adulterous schema involving one woman and two men. While it is central in the first film, this situation remains marginal in the second one, which depicts the activities of a theater under...

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4. Sentimental Educations: Stolen Kisses (1968), Two English Girls (1971)

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pp. 110-139

In contrast, on the eve of the screening of Two English Girls, he seemed optimistic and wrote to Nestor Almendros, the film’s cinematographer: “The eight or ten people who have already seen it . . . think that it’s the best of my films, owing to the cinematography. I’m of the same opinion...

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5. Criminal Women: The Bride Wore Black (1967), A Gorgeous Girl Like Me (1972)

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pp. 140-158

The Bride Wore Black ends at the point where A Gorgeous Girl Like Me begins: namely, in a prison. Julie Kohler and Camille Bliss have both burned their bridges with society and have taken the plunge that tips them from marginality into criminality. Their respective fates...

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6. In Search of the Father: Fahrenheit 451 (1966), Day for Night (1973)

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pp. 160-186

Fahrenheit 451 and Day for Night both present an image of a small human community, the function and organization of which are clearly delimited. The team of firemen and the film crew both have their head (captain/director), their base (fire station/hotel), their equipment...

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7. Marriages: Mississippi Mermaid (1969), Bed and Board (1970)

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pp. 188-205

This declaration, while it applies to all his works, reflects more than anything else the degree to which Truffaut remained distanced from his own times during the years following May 1968. Mississippi Mermaid and Bed and Board are both characterized by unreality. Removed from...

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8. Words and Things: The Wild Child (1970), The Story of Adèle H. (1975)

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pp. 206-233

At the beginning of The Wild Child, the young boy, who still does not have a name, is placed in an institution for deaf-mutes. That night, in the dormitory, being unable to bear the sheets and mattress, he hides under the bed to sleep. At the end of The Story of Adèle H....

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9. The Child King: Small Change (1976), Love on the Run (1979)

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pp. 234-248

Small Change and Love on the Run, in very different ways, both deal with the past, reassembling fragments of a childhood, a time of life, an experience. Of the sketches that make up Small Change, only the final one (the summer camp) is directly autobiographical. The...

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10. Fetishism and Mourning: The Man Who Loved Women (1977), The Green Room (1978)

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pp. 250-274

Being imprisoned or dead, mothers were sidelined in Small Change and Love on the Run. The two films that frame them, however, The Man Who Loved Women and The Green Room, are among the films in Truffaut’s oeuvre that most powerfully and tragically address...

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11. The Role of Play: Confidentially Yours (1983)

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pp. 276-282

A misty marsh in the early morning, a hunter returning from his hide; a rifle shot, the hunter collapses, his face covered in blood. This is how Confidentially Yours begins. Massoulier is dead. Those who are familiar with Truffaut’s films know him without ever having seen...

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Conclusion: The Art of the Secret

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pp. 283-292

Ten minus four = a hexagon. As I have said, this formula can serve as a paradigm for understanding Truffaut’s narrative procedure. Instead of explicit and abstract information, we find an indirect response formulated in a metaphoric, figurative language. Puzzling at first...


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pp. 293-317


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pp. 319-323


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pp. 325-328


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pp. 329-334

E-ISBN-13: 9780253008459
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253008343

Page Count: 374
Illustrations: 40 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013