The Set of 400: #156 – My Favorite Dreams of Orson Welles

Today! Because we’ll shoot the scene when you find a cat that can act –

La nuit americaine (Day For Night) (1973)

Directed by Francois Truffaut

Starring Jacqueline Bisset (x2), Jean-Pierre Leaud, Valentina Cortese, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Francois Truffaut, Dani, Alexandra Stewart, Jean Champion, Nike Arrighi, Nathalie Baye

Ah, movies about movies! And there are few better than Francois Truffaut’s serio-comic masterpiece Day For Night – a movie that happened to come along at just the right point in my life to stick around apparently forever after. I enjoyed it when I first saw it, sometime early in college, but then as now I wasn’t a huge fan of foreign films. Like, I can appreciate them, but subtitles just have a natural tendency to keep you at arm’s length, so it’s hard to gather up a more advanced fondness, I find. However, in short order, there were two big things that helped Day For Night in reaching this pantheon all these years later. One – again, movies about movies – that’s my wheelhouse. And two, right around the time I first saw this movie I started writing a play – a play within a play, actually – and a pretty autobiographical one at that – and found myself borrowing a lot of ideas from this movie. That thing – forever lost to the ages, dear readers! – eventually was titled Play For Night, and was staged in one of the more nonsensical summers of my life – 2002 – replete with heavy drama among a cast that by the end largely didn’t get along (entirely my fault), a number of people moving out of their apartments (others) and parents’ house (me), and my getting hammered with my dad at a Red Barons doubleheader as he tried to dissuade me from an avalanche of shitty decision making I’d already set in motion, as detailed back in #170 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. “But how was the play?” I can hear you asking. Never mind all this ancient teenage (20ish?) interpersonal drama! Play For Night…didn’t work. The less said the better, really.

(I actually wrote an insane follow-up play – a play within a play within a play, actually – about the staging of that play, more as a joke than anything, but it actually fares considerably better, in that it’s waaaaay shorter. Jacques the Monkey, that one was called. No, none of these are available to read.)

Turns out I was no Francois Truffaut, and that is my eternal shame. But because I saw this movie when I did – at some point during the events of the staging of the original play that Play For Night was based on – it ended up on this steady loop in my life for the following few years. And to this very day, the above poster hangs in my apartment, and has for at least the last dozen years. My entire poster-sized decorating history can be summed up with a handful of movies, actually. When I was a kid, I had this on my wall, for a little while:

Did not make the list!

And then this, for about a dozen years:

Love that Joker!

With this on an opposite wall for a while:

My sister worked at a movie theater and snagged it! Didn’t make the list, though!

And also this, for a little bit in the mid-’90s:

Don’t act like we didn’t all collectively have a Michelle Pfeiffer thing going for a while, okay?

But mainly because the wife will not let me hang up anymore movie posters, at least without getting rid of some first, Day For Night remains the stalwart, hanging now in my fourth (fifth?) different residence!

That Kubrick poster has followed me around for nearly the same amount of time, too

Day For Night won Best Foreign Language Film at the 1974 Academy Awards, while picking up Best Director, Screenplay, and Supporting Actress for Cortese nominations in 1975 (there used to be some squirrely rules for foreign films back in the day), and is often mentioned among Truffaut’s best films, alongside The 400 Blows and Jules et Jim. I’m not going to pretend I watch this movie all the time – hell, I’m not much for rewatching stuff regularly, period – but it’s a great look at foreign filmmaking, movie-in-a-movie stuff, and slice of movie set life circa 1973. I have no idea how accurate it is to ’73 French moviemaking reality, but neither do you! Enjoy!

Jacqueline Bisset is the only new Two-Timer today, with her role in #374 Murder on the Orient Express, released the following year. Spotlight!

Coming tomorrow! And now we’re going to hear a piece of music that tells a very definite story –

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