Bazin and Truffaut
Bazin and his wife Janine were a major influence on the life and
career of critic and future film-maker Francois Truffaut. Truffaut himself came from a somewhat unstable
background, experienced confusion as to his origins, never met his true biological father, and in his adolescence
and early adulthood was in regular conflict with authority, often in custody, a fugitive, or considering or
André Bazin noted Truffaut's love of books and cinema and mentored
him into the world of cinema writing, first assigning him research in regard to Jean Renoir, and later bringing him
into Cahiers du cin�ma. Bazin came to the aid of Truffaut in a number of instances, including getting him
released from custody, but was also willing to give corrective perspective to Truffaut when it seemed
Truffaut, who had a stepfather and also, as previously alluded to,
had a living biological father whom he never met, saw Bazin as a sort of substitute or supplemental father and
freely acknowledged throughout his life that André Bazin had saved him from an unproductive or self-destructive
Truffaut was a frequent guest of the Bazins. Both Bazins had a
positive influence on Truffaut during a difficult and pivotal period of his life. Truffaut�s first
full-length feature, Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) was dedicated to André Bazin and was one of the films
that launched what became known as the French "Nouvelle Vague" or "New Wave."
Although not well-known and perhaps not capable of being irrefutably
established, as a young adult, the filmloving Truffaut may have had an unhealthy identification with Jean
Gabin's character in the Marcel Carn� film Le Quai des Brumes. For those unfamiliar with the French film star
Jean Gabin, his 1930s characters might be analogized to Humphrey Bogart's gangster film
Gabin's character in Quai des Brumes is a doomed Army deserter who
appears to want to avoid going to Indochina and who perhaps entrusts too much of his chances for redemption in a
woman. While himself fugitive as an Army deserter seeking to avoid going to Indochina, Truffaut once wrote a
letter to a close friend allusively linking himself to Gabin's character, and hid about Paris trying to raise money
from friends and associates. Later, in the late 50s, Truffaut would write several original treatments for
what became Jean-Luc Godard's � Bout de Souffle [Breathless].
Much of this film is about a fugitive in Paris, trying to raise
money from friends or associates, and, like Gabin, trusting perhaps a little too much in a woman. In one of
Truffaut's treatments, he even set the beginning involved the port city of Le Havre, where the Carn� film Quai des
Brumes had relocated Pierre MacOrlan's originally "Au lapin agile"-sited novel. Gabin's 1930s outsiders
tended to have tragic rendezvous with destiny; André Bazin helped Fran�ois Truffaut avoid a similar one.
André Bazin's 1951 Cahiers du cin�ma article "Le Journal d�un cur�
de campagne et la stylistique de Robert Bresson", which was concerned with both director Robert Bresson and
cinematic adaptation of literary work, would end with a remark minimizing the future importance of scenarists Jean
Aurenche and Pierre Bost.
Aurenche and Bost were the first-call French film scenarists, often
doing adaptations of literary works. It was already somewhat well-known that Jean Aurenche had written, with
assistance from Bost, a cinematic adaptation of the Bernanos novel which had, in turn, been rejected by the
novelist. In a sense, Bazin's article would be a precursor to Fran�ois Truffaut's later -- and more
controversial -- January 1954 Cahiers du cin�ma article "Une certaine tendance du cin�ma fran�ais" which referred
to the rejected scenario, and attacked scenarists Aurenche and Bost, director Claude Autant-Lara, and the French
cinema's "Tradition de la Qualit�."
This article and other Truffaut articles in Cahiers du cin�ma and
Arts would be pivotal to the later arrival of the French Nouvelle Vague or New Wave, which was, in part, a
rejection of the idea that films needed to be made in studios, cost a lot of money, and involve a cast of stars,
often drawn from people who were making movies prior to World War II.
When Fran�ois Truffaut married Madeleine Morgenstern at the Paris
16th arrondissement city hall, he asked André Bazin to be his witness; Roberto Rossellini and Claude de Givray were
Bazin would dedicate the 1958 first volume of the original
four-volume Qu'est-ce que le cin�ma? to Roger Leenhardt and Fran�ois Truffaut. Although Bazin did not
explain, the dedication could be seen as one from Bazin to one man whom he could see as his film criticism "father"
and to another whom he could see as his film criticism "son."
After he became a director, much of Truffaut's published output --
other than his book of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock -- would consist of the writing of prefaces and
forewords. Some would be to books like one devoted to the entertaining New Wave era and present day director
Philppe de Broca or to Richard Roud's A Passion for Films : Henri Langlois & the Cinematheque Francaise,
published in France as Henri Langlois: L'homme de la cinematheque, a biography in honor of the founder of film
Many of Truffaut's post-directorial writings would consist of
prefaces, forewords, or comments to collections of writings by André Bazin, edited by others or Truffaut
Although Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) portrays adult
authority such as teachers and parents in a somewhat negative manner, Truffaut has said the portrayal would have
been more negative if he had made the film earlier in his life and less negative if he had made it later in his
He has further noted that our sympathies in regard to the film are
affected by the young age of the main character. Bazin's example and Truffaut's frequent recollections of it
may have played an important role in Truffaut's growth, even after Bazin's passing.
Truffaut's films are often bittersweet, mixing the light and the
dark, sadness and humor. Obsession is a frequent theme or subtheme. However, much of Truffaut's later work
can be considered as highly appreciative of Bazin.
Mentorship, teaching, initiation, and people who show
compassion for persons who are outside or at the margin of the mainstream are frequently shown in a positive
Truffaut also credited Janine Bazin with encouraging him to step to
the other side of the camera, which Truffaut did in a number of his own films -- including L'Enfant sauvage (Wild
Child), La Nuit am�ricain (Day for Night), La Chambre verte (The Green Room), and a brief appearance in L'Histoire
d'Ad�le H (The Story of Adele H) -- and Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third
Truffaut also sometimes employed Janine and André Bazin's son
Florent as an assistant cameraman or cinematographer, as did Eric Rohmer, and Roman Polanski, and, more recently,
Patrice Leconte's La Veuve de Saint-Pierre [The Widow of Saint Pierre], with Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, and