François Truffaut

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François Truffaut, 1967

François Truffaut (born February 6, 1932 in Paris , † October 21, 1984 in Neuilly-sur-Seine ) 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 to be the decisive founder of the Nouvelle Vague (literally translated: "New Wave") in French film history . His films are characterized by a particular lightness and personal references in his work. The most important ones include You Kissed and Beat Him , Jules and Jim , Stolen Kisses, and The American Night .

life and work

Childhood and youth

François Truffaut was born out of wedlock in 1932. 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. Truffaut was considered difficult to educate in his youth, ended up in several reforming homes and made his way through odd jobs as a young adult until he finally became a soldier. But he was also dishonorably discharged from the French army after trying unsuccessfully to desert. Truffaut was self-taught both as a critic and later as a world-famous director . His school was going to the movies.

From film critic to director

From March 1953 Truffaut wrote for the u. a. Cinema magazine Les Cahiers du cinéma directed by André Bazin . In 1954 he published in the Cahiers his article , which was deliberately polemical in tone, A certain tendency in French film , 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 author . He 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 glamor. In contrast, he defended poetic realism. Truffaut was also an avid book lover. In an autodidactic way he developed into a great literary connoisseur, with his preferences ranging from classic French writers such as Balzac and Proust to American authors of the Black Series 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. So he shot his short film The Outrageous . Because of his critical articles he was not accredited as a journalist at the Cannes Film Festival in 1958 . The following year he was allowed to kiss you with his 1959 film debut and they beat him to the Cannes award for best director. The film, which is regarded as the main work of the Nouvelle Vague, tells with autobiographical references about the young Antoine Doinel , played by Jean-Pierre Léaud . He continued this work as a cycle in 1962, first with the short film Antoine and Colette and then in 1968 with the love story of Antoine Doinel and Christine Darbon (played by Claude Jade ) in Stolen Kisses . The film became one of his greatest successes. In 1970, he described Antoine and Christine's everyday marriage in bed and table . Truffaut ended the chronicle of the couple in 1979 with love on the run , in which they divorced after an affair between Antoine and Christine's friend Liliane and remained friends. The Doinelfilme, brilliantly played by Léaud and Jade, show his own slightly alienated life story, which in these films is characterized by clarity, poetry, spontaneity and authenticity. In addition to these most personal works, his poetic love triangle Jules and Jim , the declaration of love for 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.

Continuing its homage to the gangster film of the 40s, Shoot the Pianist , with an underdog and the oppressive burden of your own past and losses. he already enriches this with irony. At the beginning of the 1960s, Truffaut's films became lighter and livelier. His films are regarded as great cinematic art, and thanks to their lightness and elegance, irony also reach a large audience - a success that Godard was denied. Truffaut was not afraid to stage his works for a broad and less intellectual, but therefore no less artistically open-minded audience. As a great admirer of Alfred Hitchcock, he recorded the 50-hour interview Hitchock – Truffaut in 1966 , which was published as the film book Mr. Hitchcock, How Did You Do It? is regarded as the most important major work in film literature. His 1967 film The Bride Wore Black is a clear homage to Hitchcock. In 1968 Hitchcock picks up the thread himself and casts Truffaut's regular actress Claude Jade for Topas . Between the two Doinel comedies Robbed Kisses and Table and Bed , another crime film emerges, which is also an amour fou ( The Secret of the False Bride ) and his ascetic masterpiece The Wild Child about the upbringing of the wolf boy Victor von Aveyron , in which Truffaut himself as an educational director shows.

For Truffaut, the principle of the auteur film was important, which he had already demanded as a critic of soulless commercial cinema, not the individual film genre. If the Doinel cycle contained both drama ( They kissed and they beat him ) and the feather-light cinematic comedy ( Stolen Kisses ) as well as pure comedy with serious nuances ( table and bed ), he was also a master of thrillers ( The Bride Wore Black ), black comedies ( A beautiful girl like me ), tributes to the black series as a drama with comic elements ( Shoot the pianist ) and crime comedies ( On love and death ), period drama ( The story of Adèle H. , Two girls from Wales 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 .

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

Frequent collaborations

François Truffaut and his leading actress and former fiancée Claude Jade at the preview of their third film together, Liebe auf der Flucht , 1979

In addition to the Antoine Doinel cycle , the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud also played in the films Two Girls from Wales and the Love of the Continent and The American Night .

The actress Claude Jade also played the leading roles in Table and Bed and Love on the Run after Stolen Kisses . She was his most common leading actress. For a beautiful girl like me she seemed too young to him and he cast Bernadette Lafont, 10 years his senior . In addition to Claude Jade, Jeanne Moreau ( Jules and Jim , The Bride Wore Black ), Catherine Deneuve ( The Secret of the False Bride , The Last Metro ) and Fanny Ardant ( The Woman Next Door , On Love and Death ) were his muses.

Actor Charles Denner became The Man Who Loved Women in 1977 after having nice supporting roles in The Bride Wore Black and A Beautiful Girl Like Me . The permanent staff also included Gerard Depardieu , who each played a leading role in The Last Metro and The Woman Next Door .

Marie Dubois , leading 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 at Truffaut's side in 1978 .

As a child, actress Sabine Haudepin had roles in Jules and Jim as Jeanne Moreau's daughter and in Die süße Haut as the daughter of the Lachenays. Her roles in both films were Sabine. As an adult, she played a major supporting role than the ambitious 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 unreconciled: "You read against me," throws one of the lovers in The Man Who Loved Women to Bertrand and throws the book out of the window onto the street. When collecting it, it gets 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 The Sweet Skin , in the opening to the table and bed the camera follows the legs of Claude Jade for a long time and in his last film On Love and Death Fanny Ardant presents her legs, in which she paces up and down in front of the cellar window from which Jean-Louis Trintignant is looking. And the books are omnipresent: little Antoine is erecting an altar for Balzac, Claude Jade and Jean-Pierre Léaud are reading in bed. Truffaut's heroes read, write and suffer from letters that have never been sent or received. The book Truffaut - Letters shows his passion for it. The book and the written word become a fetish: at the breakfast table at the end of Robbery Kisses , Claude Jade and Jean-Pierre Léaud write small messages on pieces of paper. The worst that can flourish in a future society is a ban on writing. Fahrenheit 451, about the fireman who burns books and then starts reading them, is Truffaut's only science fiction film. He couldn't imagine the future any worse. In addition to dealing with death, as in The Green Room , Truffaut had another question throughout his life: Is the 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. Women are always the stronger characters at Truffaut, so that he is considered to be the female director in film history.

Film music with Truffaut

Film director François Truffaut in 1963.

His preferred composer was Georges Delerue , who wrote the films Shoot the Pianist , Jules and Jim , Sweet Skin , Two Girls from Wales , A Beautiful Girl Like Me , Love on the Run , The Last Metro , The Woman Next Door, and Up Love and Death composed. He also composed the Mauregard miniseries created by the Carrosse family . Another house composer was Antoine Duhamel , who created the music for Stolen Kisses , The Secret of the False Bride and Table and Bed . The musicologist François Porcile advised him on four of his films when the task was to carefully adapt the music of the composer Maurice Jaubert and adapt it to the needs of Truffaut's films. This was done 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 .

How Truffaut used the film music, for example, for which he engaged such established musicians as the longtime 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 synonymous with 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 hear Duhamel's music. The music of Delerue, Duhamel, Herrmann and Jaubert speak the emotions of his films in sync with them, so to speak. They follow the rhetoric of the narrator Truffaut and give him the space he needs Because Truffaut basically presented the viewer with an endless monologue by the author, with the help of 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 has daughters Laura (* 1959) and Eva (* 1961). In 1963 he had a love affair with the actress Françoise Dorléac , the sister of Catherine Deneuve. In 1968 Truffaut was engaged to actress Claude Jade, who was sixteen years his junior and who played the leading role in three of his films. He fell in love with her while filming "Stolen Kisses". The wedding was planned for June 68. François and Claude Jade remained friends until Truffaut's death. Truffaut also called Claude Jade his third daughter . After that he had a relationship with Catherine Deneuve that plunged him into a deep depression. From 1979 until his death he had a relationship with the actress Fanny Ardant, their daughter is called Josephine (* 1983). The last few months before his death, however, he lived with his ex-wife Madeleine, who looked after him, and his older children, while Ardant took care of the newly born daughter.

Gravestone with reflection of the cross from the neighboring grave on the grave of François Truffaut on the Cimetière Montmartre

It was not until 1968 - shortly before his mother's death - that Truffaut found out about his biological father's identity. It was the Jewish dentist Roland Lévy who settled in Belfort after the First World War . Truffaut traveled to Belfort and watched his father there. But he did not dare to speak to him and looked instead at the movies Gold Rush by Charlie Chaplin on.

In September 1983 François Truffaut was diagnosed with a brain tumor. On September 12th, he had "a tumor removed", as he called the operation. He writes to Claude Jade: “I started by stepping on the other side of the mirror, not in the sense of Alice in Wonderland - rather in the sense of Orphée in the Cocteau films ... Madame la Mort gave me her hand, but I did she refused in the end, removed me, and now it is a convalescent who is writing to you ... ". It is placed in the hands of Professor Bernard Pertuiset, France's best specialist in neurosurgery. In 1984 he died of a brain tumor at the age of 52 in the American Hospital in Paris in Neuilly-sur-Seine . Truffaut was buried on the Cimetière de Montmartre .

Truffaut's commitment to children

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

While his early short film Die Unschämten mainly deals with the cheerful side of childhood, his first long feature film You kissed and you beat him (1959) was about how adults dealt with problematic children. Since that time 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 started working on The Wolf Boy , he became a member of the godparents of the Secours Populaire Français , an association that looks after 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 spend a day on the France-Culture radio station . He chose the topic of child abuse . The ten-hour broadcast received a great response: many calls, detailed press reports and two hundred letters from listeners.

His commitment to the cause of children is mainly based on Truffaut's own childhood. In Paris during World War II , he suffered greatly from the cruelty and indifference of both adults and his parents. On the other hand, he mostly received affection from other children, they were his support. Truffaut reflected on his own childhood in the children's characters in his films, taking up changing perspectives. Since his first work, Jean-Pierre Léaud has been an obvious alter ego on screen in the role of Antoine Doinel Truffaut . Léaud then played Doinel twice before The Wolf Boy was filmed, in which Léaud did not appear, but Truffaut finally dedicated it to Léaud.

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


Working as a director (and working on all scripts):

Collaboration on other scripts:

Working as an actor:

Fonts (selection)

  • Le cinéma selon Hitchcock (with Helen Scott). Editions Robert Laffont, Paris 1966
  • L'Homme qui aimait les femmes , (Cinéroman). Flammarion, Paris 1977, ISBN 2-08-060970-X .
  • Le plaisir des yeux . Cahiers du Cinéma, Paris 1987, ISBN 2-86642-276-7 .
    • German edition: The pleasure of seeing , translated from French and edited by Robert Fischer. Publishing house of the authors, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-88661-215-5 .
  • Correspondance . Hatier / 5 continents, Renens 1988, ISBN 2-218-07862-7 .
  • The films of my life - essays and reviews edited by Robert Fischer , translated from the French by Frieda Grafe and Enno Patalas , 1st edition of the extended edition. Publishing house of the authors, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-88661-174-4 .

Awards and nominations (selection)

In addition, Truffaut's directorial work on The American Night in 1974 won the Oscar for best foreign language film for its French contribution ; Robbery 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 Brief 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 by 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 it? - 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 cinéma selon François Truffaut . Flammarion, Paris 1988, ISBN 2-08-211406-6 .
  • Frieda Grafe: The art of the epigone . First published in: film review from April 1965; In: Writings, Volume 3. Brinkmann & Bose Verlag, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-922660-82-7 , pp. 42-52.
  • Robert Ingram, Paul Duncan (eds.): François Truffaut - film author 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 München (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, directors: Kent Jones, production: arte France, Artline Films, Cohen Media Group, first broadcast: November 16, 2015 by arte, dossier with film clips from Festival de Cannes 2015 , summary by arte, ( Memento from November 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive ).
  • François Truffaut - Obsessed with the cinema . (Original title: François Truffaut l'insoumis ) Documentary film, France, 2014, 53 min., Script and director: Alexandre Moix, production: Les Films d'ici, arte France, INA , Ciné, first broadcast: November 2, 2014, summary:
  • François Truffaut . France, 2014, 35 mins., Production: arte France, series: Abgedelte! , Episode 117 (season 4, episode 9), German first broadcast: November 2, 2014, contents:
  • François Truffaut. An autobiography. (OT .: François Truffaut, une autobiography. ) Documentary film, France, 2004, 71:30 min., Script and direction: Anne Andreu, production: arte France, INA , first broadcast: October 1, 2004, summary:
  • An interview with François Truffaut . Federal Republic of Germany, 1984, 28:30 min., Moderation: Peter Bermbach, camera: Raymond Grosjean, production: Hessischer Rundfunk , film data from HeBIS a . a. with Catherine Deneuve .

Web links

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


  1. German editions: Mr. Hitchcock, how did you do that? Translation by Frieda Grafe and Enno Patalas . Hanser, Munich 1973; Heyne, Munich 1975, ISBN 3-453-00458-2 .
  2. ^ Title of the German edition: François Truffaut. Biography. edited by Robert Fischer, translated from the French by Robert Fischer, Gisela Sturm, Hannes Goebel, Ulrich Schweizer. Egmont Verlagsgesellschaft, Cologne 1999 a. 2nd edition 2004, ISBN 3-8025-3417-4 .
  3. ^ Collaboration: Françoise Castello, translation: Elisabeth Daigfuss; Not listed under "Truffaut" at DNB ( ISSN  0938-233X ); In German. Three texts by Truffaut and discussions with 12 employees in 1986.
  4. Summary of François Truffaut - Obsessed by the cinema. ( Memento from November 9, 2014 in the Internet Archive ). In: arte .tv , November 2, 2014.
  5. Contents by François Truffaut in «Abgedendet!». ( Memento from November 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) In: arte .tv , November 2, 2014.
  6. ^ Table of contents by François Truffaut. An autobiography. In: arte / ARD , October 1, 2004.
  7. François Truffaut in conversation (1984). In: YouTube .com, ( MP4 , approx. 79 MB)

Individual evidence

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