Sunday, January 31, 2010


"Shooting a movie is like a stagecoach ride in the Old West. At first you hope for a nice trip. Soon you just hope to reach your destination." - La nuit américaine
Sunday afternoons are for cinema whether you haul yourself to the cineplex, or watch a DVD from the comfort of your own home. This afternoon I cozied up with La nuit américaine (1974), François Truffaut's homage to cinema and the art of film-making. Everything about this film is delightful and entertaining. It's a film within a film, a peek into the often frenetic but satisfying process of making movies, its frustrations and triumphs. The story follows the film production of Je Vous Présente Pamela (Meet Pamela), a melodrama about a young bride who runs away with her father-in-law. From the onset the director (played by Truffaut) has to contend not only with all the day-to-day logistics of film production, but the real life dramas being played out by his cast and crew. The lead actress can't be insured because of a previous nervous breakdown, her heartthrob co-star is more interested in romance than playing his part, the temperamental aging actress can't remember her lines, and a former matinee idol playing a central role is killed in a car accident before the completion of the film. Not to mention, the egos, romances, breakups, and other complications that occur on and off set. In fact the tensions and problems behind-the-scenes far surpasses the drama of the film being made.

film within the film, Truffuat playing the role of director Ferrand

The English translation of the title, Day for Night, is a technical term for night scenes which are shot in daylight with special filters. It's apt in that the film offers us a glimpse into the reality behind the artifice of moviemaking. Truffaut allows us to peek behind the movie-magic curtain by showing us tricks of the trade, but it doesn't by any means spoil the illusion, rather it enhances our enjoyment by allowing us to share in the moviemaking experience. He shows us everything from prop tricks, to set cheats, car stunts, and how to achieve fake rain and snow, not only to create a scene but to build a mood. A make-believe world in which to lose ourselves, a complete experience for the audience to enjoy. One of the underlying themes of the film is whether movies are better than real life. And the answer would seem to be no, although certainly movies can be more easily controlled than life. It also begs the question, where does the make-believe end and reality take over? And demonstrates how often one crosses into the other, as we borrow from one to enhance the other, as in the scenes where the director rewrites dialogue for the film with snippets of real life conversations.

Day for Night wasn't the first, nor will it be the last film made about movie-making but I think it's one of the best. As I was watched it, I couldn't help but draw from my own personal experiences, and appreciate how real to life so much of it was. Some of the bits were so cliche, but it was that very fact that made me laugh. The skinny prop guy that never sits still, the cat that won't perform on cue, the prima donnas, the incestuous set romances, and the constant fires that need putting out. Film-making is a huge production, and everyone has their specific role to play. As they say, there are no small parts, just small people. And believe me, I'm not referring to the actors. La nuit américaine is definitely a film worth checking out if you haven't done so already. Not only did it unanimously garner critical acclaim, it also won an oscar for best foreign film.

Jacqueline Bisset, Julie and Jean-Pierre Leaud, Alphonse

What's a movie without popcorn, right? Popcorn has been popular since the 1840's, sold by vendors at fairs, rallies, vaudevilles, burlesques, and other large public gatherings. With the advent of the the nickelodeons and motion pictures, popcorn vendors quickly set up their carts outside to entice audiences to indulge in their snacks. At first movie theaters weren't so keen on customers eating snacks in their pristine venues, leaving a big mess to be cleaned up afterwards. It wasn't until the 1930's that concession stands were built into the design of the theaters, making snacks available inside for customers. The cheap admission prices were off-set by the purchase of popcorn and other snacks. And just like that popcorn became part of the movie experience.

Chocolate Popcorn Pie
2 quarts popcorn
Light Glaze (*see recipe below)
1 6-oz package of chocolate pie filling
Whipped cream (garnish)
  1. Drizzle glaze over popcorn and stir until uniformly coated. Press into 9-inch pie plate, building edges higher than pie plate edge and allow to cool.
  2. Prepare pie filling according to package directions. Spoon into popcorn pie shell. Garnish with whipped cream.
Light Popcorn Glaze
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
  1. Cook to 260 degrees (hard ball stage). Pour over popcorn and mix thoroughly.
recipe via eatmycakehere

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