Francois Truffaut

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Francois Truffaut, 1967

François Truffaut ( Paris , February 6, 1932Neuilly-sur-Seine , October 21, 1984 ) was a French film director , film critic , actor and producer . With the revival of auteur films from the end of the 1950s, Truffaut is considered the main founder of the Nouvelle Vague (literally: "New Wave") in French film history . His films are characterized by their special lightness and personal references in his work. Among the most important They Kissed and They Slapped Him , Jules and Jim , Stolen Kisses and American Night .

life and work

childhood and adolescence

François Truffaut was born in 1932 as an illegitimate child. His mother Janine de Monferrand married the architect and draftsman Roland Truffaut in 1933, who adopted François as his son. Nevertheless, François grew up with his grandmother. Only when she died in 1942 did his parents take him in. In his youth, Truffaut was considered difficult to educate, ended up in several reform schools and, as a young adult, worked odd jobs until he finally became a soldier. But he was also dishonorably discharged from the French army after trying in vain to desert. Truffaut was self -taught both as a critic and later as a director who was celebrated around the world . Going to the movies was his school.

From film critic to director

From March 1953 Truffaut wrote for u. a. Cinema magazine Les Cahiers du cinéma directed by André Bazin . In 1954 he published in the Cahiers his polemical-toned article A certain tendency in French cinema , which became the basis of the auteur theory . As a film critic, he played a key role in the director's recognition as an artist or auteur filmmaker . He had soon made a name for himself as one of the most witty and sharp-tongued critics. He attacked the state of French cinematography at the time and exposed its products as superficial and determined by the pursuit of glitter and glamour. On the other hand, he defended poetic realism. Truffaut was also an outspoken book lover. Self-taught, he developed into a great literary connoisseur, with tastes ranging from classic French writers such as Balzac and Proust to American Black Series authors such as Cornell Woolrich (William Irish) and David Goodis . His film Fahrenheit 451 is considered a homage to the world of books .

Truffaut in front of the Cinétol cinema in Amsterdam in 1965

In 1956 he was assistant to Roberto Rossellini and in 1957 he became a film producer with his own company. That's how he made his short film Die Unschemten . Because of his critical articles, he was denied accreditation as a journalist at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival . The following year, however, he won the Best Director award at Cannes for his 1959 film debut They Kissed and They Beat Him . The film, which is considered the main work of the Nouvelle Vague, tells the story of the young Antoine Doinel , played by Jean-Pierre Léaud , with autobiographical references . As a cycle, he continued this work in 1962, first with the short film Antoine and Colette and then in 1968 with the love story about Antoine Doinel and Christine Darbon (played by Claude Jade ) in Stolen Kisses . The film became one of his finest successes. In 1970 he described the everyday life of Antoine and Christine in Tisch und Bett . Truffaut ended the couple's chronicle in 1979 with Love on the Run , in which they divorce and remain friends after Antoine's affair with Christine's friend Liliane. The Doinel films, played brilliantly by Léaud and Jade, show his own slightly alienated life story, which is characterized in these films by clarity, poetry, spontaneity and authenticity. In addition to these most personal works, his poetic love triangle Jules and Jim , the declaration of love to the cinema, The American Night , and his occupation drama The Last Metro are unforgettable. With Jacques Rivette , Jean-Luc Godard , Claude Chabrol and Éric Rohmer , Truffaut is the founder of the New Wave.

While his homage to the 1940s gangster film, Shoot the Pianist , deals with an underdog and the crushing burden of his own past and losses, he already enriches them with irony. At the beginning of the 1960s, Truffaut's films became lighter and more lively. His films are regarded as great cinematic art, and they also reach large audiences through their lightness and elegance with irony - a success that Godard was denied. Truffaut had no hesitation in staging his works for a broad and less cerebral audience, which, however, was no less artistically open-minded. A great admirer of Alfred Hitchcock, he recorded the 50-hour Hitchock–Truffaut interview in 1966 , which was published as a film book Mr. Hitchcock, how did you do that? considered the most important major work in film literature. His 1967 film The Bride Wore Black is a clear homage to Hitchcock. In 1968, Hitchcock took up the thread himself and cast Truffaut's regular actress Claude Jade for Topas . Another crime film, which is also an amour fou ( The Secret of the Wrong Bride ), and his ascetic masterpiece Das wilde Kind about the upbringing of the wolf boy Victor von Aveyron , in which Truffaut shows himself as an educational director.

For Truffaut, the principle of the auteur film was important, which he had already demanded of soulless commercial cinema as a critic, not the individual film genre. While the Doinel cycle contained both drama ( They kissed and they beat him ) and the light as a feather cinematic art comedy ( Stolen Kisses ) as well as pure comedy with serious overtones ( Table and Bed ), it also dominated thrillers ( The Bride wore black ), black comedies ( A Beautiful Girl Like Me ), homages to the Black Series as drama with comic elements ( Shoot the Pianist ) and crime comedies ( On Love and Death ), historical drama ( The Story of Adèle H. , Two Welsh Girls and love for the continent ), films about children ( The Wolf Boy , pocket money ) or personal references to dealing with the dead with The Green Room .

Film producer Marcel Berbert produced most of Truffaut's films through the production company Les Films du Carrosse . Various companies were responsible for film distribution, including United Artists .

Frequent collaborations

François Truffaut and his leading actress and former fiancee Claude Jade at the preview of their third film together, Love on the Run , 1979

The actor Jean-Pierre Léaud also starred in the films Two Welsh Girls and the Love of the Continent and The American Night alongside the Antoine Doinel Cycle .

Actress Claude Jade also starred in The Table and Bed and Love on the Run after Stolen Kisses . She was his most frequent leading lady. She seemed too young for A Beautiful Girl Like Me , and he cast Bernadette Lafont , 10 years his senior . Besides Claude Jade, his muses were Jeanne Moreau ( Jules and Jim , The Bride Wore Black ), Catherine Deneuve ( The Mystery of the Wrong Bride , The Last Metro ) and Fanny Ardant ( The Woman Next Door , On Love and Death ).

Actor Charles Denner was cast in 1977 's The Man Who Loved Women after fine supporting roles in The Bride Wore Black and A Beautiful Girl Like Me . Gerard Depardieu , who played a leading role in The Last Metro and The Woman Next Door , was also among the permanent staff .

Marie Dubois , lead actress in Shoot the Pianist , had a supporting role in Jules and Jim . And actress Nathalie Baye , after supporting roles in The American Night and The Man Who Loved Women, had a leading role in The Green Room alongside Truffaut himself in 1978 .

As a child, actress Sabine Haudepin had roles in Jules and Jim as Jeanne Moreau's daughter and in The Sweet Skin as the Lachenays' daughter. In both films, her roles were called Sabine. As an adult, she played a larger supporting role as aspiring actress Nadine in The Last Metro .

Truffaut often worked with cameramen Raoul Coutard and Nestor Almendros .

Topics at Truffaut

Books and beautiful women - no director has exhibited his passions as openly as François Truffaut. And sometimes they face each other irreconcilably: "You read against me," one of the lovers in The Man Who Loved Women accuses Bertrand and throws the book out of the window onto the street. When picking it up, it falls under the wheels; across the street a pair of woman's legs distracted him. It is the legs of Françoise Dorléac that he films to elegiac music in La Sweet Skin ; in the opening to the table and bed , the camera follows Claude Jade's legs for a long time, and in his last film, On Love and Death , Fanny Ardant presents her legs by pacing up and down in front of the basement window, through which Jean-Louis Trintignant looks goes. And books are omnipresent: little Antoine Balzac erects an altar, Claude Jade and Jean-Pierre Léaud read in bed. Truffaut's heroes read, write, suffer from letters that have never been sent or received. The book Truffaut - Briefe testifies to his passion for it. The book and the written word become a fetish: at the breakfast table at the end of Stolen Kisses , Claude Jade and Jean-Pierre Léaud write small messages on slips of paper. The worst thing that can flourish in a future society is a ban on writing. Fahrenheit 451 , about the firefighter who burns books and then begins to read them, is Truffaut's only science fiction film. He couldn't imagine the future to be worse. In addition to dealing with death, as in The Green Room , Truffaut was concerned with another question throughout his life: Is cinema more important than life? Watching films and above all making films was not a form of escapism for him, but his way of coping with life. With Truffaut, women are always the stronger characters, so that he is regarded as the most female director in film history.

Film music by Truffaut

Film director François Truffaut in 1963.

His composer of choice was Georges Delerue , who wrote the films for the films Shoot the Pianist , Jules and Jim , The Sweet Skin , Two Welsh Girls , A Pretty Girl Like Me , Love on the Run , The Last Metro , The Woman Next Door and Up Love and Death composed. Alongside this, he also composed the mini-series Mauregard created by the Carrosse family . Another resident composer was Antoine Duhamel , who created the music for Kisses Stolen , The Mystery of the False Bride and Table and Bed . The musicologist François Porcile advised him on four of his films when it came to carefully adapting the music of the composer Maurice Jaubert and adapting it to the needs of Truffaut's films. This happened under the direction of Patrice Mestral for the films The Story of Adèle H. , Pocket Money , The Man Who Loved Women and The Green Room .

The way Truffaut used the film music, for example, for which he hired such established musicians as the long-time Hitchcock composer Bernard Herrmann , shows the great individuality of his narrative style. Dominik Graf 1999: "Hearing the music of the four composers of Truffaut's films is almost tantamount to seeing the films again. When the violin melody in the opening sequence of Domicile conjugal accompanies Claude Jade's legs, they flutter across the screen, carried by the melody , and we see them when we listen to Duhamel's music. The music by Delerue, Duhamel, Herrmann and Jaubert speaks the emotions of his films in a sense in sync with them. They completely follow the rhetoric of the narrator Truffaut and give him the space he needs Because Truffaut basically presented the viewer with an endless monologue from the author, using all the 'beautiful things' and the terrible things that touched or frightened him.

private life

François Truffaut was married to Madeleine Morgenstern from 1957 to 1965. The marriage produced the daughters Laura (* 1959) and Eva (* 1961). He had a love affair in 1963 with the actress Françoise Dorléac , sister of Catherine Deneuve. In 1968 Truffaut was engaged to the actress Claude Jade, who was sixteen years his junior and had starred in three of his films. He fell in love with her while filming Stolen Kisses. The wedding was planned for June 1968. François and Claude Jade remained friends until Truffaut's death. Truffaut also called Claude Jade his "third daughter". He then had a relationship with Catherine Deneuve that plunged him into a deep depression. From 1979 until his death he was in a relationship with actress Fanny Ardant; their daughter is called Josephine (* 1983). However, for the last few months before his death he lived with his former wife Madeleine, who cared for him, and his older children, while Ardant looked after their newborn daughter.

Grave slab with reflection of the cross from the neighboring grave on the grave of François Truffaut in the Cimetière Montmartre

It was only in 1968 - shortly before his mother's death - that Truffaut found out about the identity of his biological father. It was the Jewish dentist Roland Lévy who settled in Belfort after the First World War . Truffaut traveled to Belfort and observed his father there. He didn't dare speak to him and went to see Charlie Chaplin 's Gold Rush instead .

In September 1983, François Truffaut was diagnosed with a brain tumor. On September 12, he had “an artery tumor removed,” as he called the operation. He wrote to Claude Jade: 'I began by entering the other side of the looking glass, not in the Alice in Wonderland sense - rather in the sense of the Orphée in the Cocteau films... Madame la Mort gave me her hand, but I did she finally refused, removed me, and now it's a convalescent writing to you...". He placed himself in the hands of Professor Bernard Pertuiset, the best neurosurgical specialist in France. In 1984, at the age of 52, he died of a brain tumor at the Paris American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine . Truffaut was buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre .

Truffaut's commitment to children

The strong presence of children in Truffaut's works is striking. Children play the leading role in four of his films (including one short film), and children at least appear in all of the others.

While his early short The Outrageous was still mostly concerned with the brighter side of childhood, his first feature film They Kissed and They Beat Him (1959) was already about how adults deal with troubled children. Since then, Truffaut has been interested in educational experiments with difficult children. He also campaigned publicly for the rights of vulnerable children. In 1964, the year he began work on The Wolf Boy , he became a member of the Godparents des Secours Populaire Français , an association dedicated to the problems of children and disadvantaged families. In 1967 he became President of the Foundation Association of SOS Children's Villages .

In April 1967 he was given the opportunity to program the radio station France-Culture for a day . He chose the subject of child abuse . The ten-hour program received a great response: many phone calls, extensive press reports and two hundred letters from listeners.

His commitment to children's causes is primarily based on Truffaut's own childhood. In Paris during the Second World War , he suffered greatly from the cruelty and indifference of adults and his parents. On the other hand, he received mostly affection from other children, they were his support. In the child characters in his films, Truffaut reflected on his own childhood, taking on changing perspectives. Since his debut, Jean-Pierre Léaud has been Truffaut's apparent alter ego in the role of Antoine Doinel . Léaud then played Doinel twice more before filming The Wolf Boy , in which Léaud did not appear but which Truffaut eventually dedicated to Léaud.

In 1976 he directed the film Pocket Money , in which children play the leading roles, and which can be interpreted as a form of homage to childhood.


Works as a director (and collaboration on all screenplays):

Collaboration on other screenplays:

Working as an actor:

Fonts (selection)

  • Le cinéma selon Hitchcock (with Helen Scott). Editions Robert Laffont, Paris 1966.
  • Les films de ma vie . Flammarion, Paris 1975.
    • The Films of My Life – Essays and Reviews . Edited by Robert Fischer, from the French by Frieda Grafe and Enno Patalas, 1st edition of the enlarged edition. Publisher of the authors, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-88661-174-4 .
  • Le Plaisir des yeux . Cahiers du Cinéma, Paris 1987, ISBN 2-86642-276-7 .
    • The pleasure of seeing . Translated from the French and edited by Robert Fischer. Publishing house of the authors, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-88661-215-5 .
  • correspondence . Hatier / 5 continents, Renens 1988, ISBN 2-218-07862-7 .
    • Letters 1945–1984 . Translated from the French by Robert Fischer. Heyne, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-4530-7821-7 .

Awards and nominations (selection)

In addition, Truffaut's directing work on The American Night won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1974 as the French entry ; Stolen Kisses (1969) and The Last Metro (1981) were also nominated for this award.


  • Don Allen: Finally Truffaut . Beaufort Books, New York 1985, ISBN 0-8253-0335-4 .
  • Antoine de Baecque, Serge Toubiana: François Truffaut . Editions Gallimard, Paris 1996, ISBN 2-07-073629-6 .
  • Emilie Bickerton: A Short History of the Cahiers du cinéma . Diaphanes, Zurich 2010, ISBN 978-3-03734-126-1 .
  • Cahiers du Cinéma: Le Roman de François Truffaut . Éditions de l'Étoile, Paris 1985, ISBN 2-86642-025-X . With contributions from Éric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Raymond Depardon, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu and many others.
  • Robert Fischer (ed.): Monsieur Truffaut, how did you do that? – Truffaut in conversation with José-Maria Berzosa, Jean Collet and Jérôme Prieur . Heyne, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-453-06524-7 .
  • Robert Fischer: Vivement Truffaut! – Photos, posters, motifs – Photos, affiches, motifs . CICIM 41, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-920727-10-X .
  • Anne Gillain: Le cinema selon François Truffaut . Flammarion, Paris 1988, ISBN 2-08-211406-6 .
  • Anne Gillain: François Truffaut - Le Secret perdu . L'Harmattan, Paris 2014, ISBN 978-2343040059 .
  • Frieda Grafe: The Art of the Epigone . First published in: Film criticism from April 1965; In: Writings, 3rd volume. Verlag Brinkmann & Bose, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-922660-82-7 , pp. 42-52.
  • Robert Ingram, Paul Duncan (eds.): François Truffaut – Film Writer 1932–1984 . Taschen, Cologne 2013, ISBN 978-3-8365-3476-5 .
  • Annette Insdorf: Francois Truffaut . Twayne, Boston 1978, ISBN 0-8057-9253-8 .
  • Dominique Rabourdin: Truffaut par Truffaut . Sté Nlle des Éditions du Chêne, Paris 1985, ISBN 2-84277-591-0 .
    • English language edition: Truffaut by Truffaut . Harry N Abrams, New York 1987, ISBN 0-8109-1689-4 .
  • Georges Sturm, Heiner Gassen (ed.): Working with François Truffaut. Revue pour le cinema français CICIM No. 37 . Center d'Information Cinématographique de Munich CICIM & Institut Français Munich (2nd, revised, expanded and newly illustrated edition), Munich 1992, ISBN 3-920727-07-X .


  • Hitchcock-Truffaut. Documentary, USA, France, 2014, 79 min., Script: Kent Jones and Serge Toubiana, director: Kent Jones, production: arte France, Artline Films, Cohen Media Group, first broadcast: November 16, 2015 at arte, dossier with film excerpts from Festival de Cannes 2015 , Synopsis by arte, ( Memento of 24 November 2015 at the Internet Archive ).
  • François Truffaut - Obsessed with cinema . (Original title: François Truffaut l'insoumis ) Documentary film, France, 2014, 53 min., Written and directed by: Alexandre Moix, Production: Les Films d'ici, arte France, INA , Ciné, First broadcast: November 2nd, 2014, Synopsis:
  • Francois Truffaut . France, 2014, 35 min., production: arte France, series: Abdreh! , Episode 117 (Season 4, Episode 9), German first broadcast: November 2, 2014, synopsis:
  • Francois Truffaut. An autobiography. (OT.: François Truffaut, une autobiographie. ) Documentary, France, 2004, 71:30 min., written and directed by: Anne Andreu, production: arte France, INA , first broadcast: October 1, 2004, summary:
  • Francois Truffaut in conversation . Federal Republic of Germany, 1984, 28:30 min., moderation: Peter Bermbach , camera: Raymond Grosjean, production: Hessischer Rundfunk , film data from HeBIS and others with Catherine Deneuve .

web links

Commons : François Truffaut  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Title of the German edition: François Truffaut. Biography. edited by Robert Fischer, translated from French by Robert Fischer, Gisela Sturm, Hannes Goebel, Ulrich Schweizer. Egmont Verlagsgesellschaft, Cologne 1999 and 2nd edition 2004, ISBN 3-8025-3417-4 .
  2. Cooperation: Françoise Castello, translation: Elisabeth Daigfuss; not listed by DNB under "Truffaut" ( ISSN  0938-233X ); In German. Three texts by Truffaut and conversations with 12 employees in 1986.
  3. ^ Synopsis by François Truffaut - Obsessed with cinema. ( Memento of 9 November 2014 at the Internet Archive ). In: , November 2, 2014.
  4. Synopsis by François Truffaut in «Abdreh!». ( Memento of November 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) In: , November 2, 2014.
  5. Synopsis by François Truffaut. An autobiography. In: arte / ARD , October 1, 2004.
  6. ^ François Truffaut in conversation (1984). In: , ( MP4 , approx. 79 MB)


  1. Francois Truffaut - An Autobiography , documentary, arte , 2004.
  2. Baecque/Toubiana: François Truffaut. ISBN 2-07-073629-6 , pp. 402–406.
  3. Francois Truffauts 30th Anniversary of Death - Retrospectives in Paris and Berlin