Day for Night

Released:  1973

Cast:  Jacqueline Bisset, Valentina Cortese, Dani, Alexandra Stewart, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Jean Champion, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Francois Truffaut

Oscar Wins:  Best Foreign Language Film (France)

Oscar Nominations:  Best Supporting Actress (Valentina Cortese), Best Director (Francois Truffaut), Best Original Screenplay (Francois Truffaut, Jean-Louis Richard, Suzanne Schiffman)

SUMMARY:  At the Victorine Studios in Nice, France, filming has begun on the new movie Meet PamelaPamela is the story of a young man who marries an Englishwoman and returns to France, where his father and bride fall in love with each other.  The father is played by Aldexandre (Jean-Pierre Aumont), an aging star; the mother is played by Severine (Valentina Cortese), also an aging star.  Many years earlier, Alexandre and Severine had an affair which ended badly; they have not worked together in a decade.  In addition, Severine’s son is dying of leukemia, and she has taken to drinking in order to cope.  This, and possibly her age, make it hard for her to remember her lines, which causes some problems on set.  The son is played by Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Leaud), an up-and-coming French actor who has brought his girlfriend, Liliane, with him and arranged a job for her as a script girl.  Finally, Pamela is played by a British actress named Julie Baker (Jacqueline Bisset), who had a well-publicized nervous breakdown the year before; after her recovery, she married her doctor, who is much older.  The film is directed by Ferrand (Francois Truffaut, also the real director of the film), who is forced to deal not only with creating the movie but with the private lives of his cast and crew.  Over the course of the filming schedule, he has to make numerous changes to the movie.  One of the first major hurdles occurs when one of the secondary actors, Stacey, is discovered to be pregnant:  when she returns at the end of filming to finish her scenes, the pregnancy will be extremely noticeable.  Alphonse jokingly asks Liliane to marry him, and when she doesn’t turn him down, he takes it as an acceptance.  He asks Ferrand to be his best man, but when Ferrand congratulates Liliane the next day, she is confused:  she does not consider them engaged.

Halfway through filming, Pamela’s death scene is shot, and a male stunt double is brought in to play the character.  The scene is shot quickly, and the stuntman prepares to leave – and Liliane decides to leave with him, telling Julie that she is in love with him.  Julie tries to talk her out of it, for Alphonse’s sake, but Liliane has no sympathy for him.  When the entire cast and crew assembles to take a picture, Alphonese realizes that Liliane is missing:  Julie is forced to tell him what happened.  Alphonse seems to take it fairly well, but then suddenly takes off; he later locks himself in his hotel room.  That night, he calls Julie to tell her that he is leaving, regardless of the fact that shooting is not finished.  Julie tries to talk him out of this plan, and goes to his hotel room.  The two end up sleeping together; in the morning, Alphonse talks of running away together, but Julie is noncommittal.  Alphonse then calls her husband, Dr. Nelson, and tells him what happened.  He also states that he loves Julie, and requests that Dr. Nelson “set her free”.  He then disappears again.  The same morning, a crew member goes to Julie’s room and realizes that her bed has not been slept in.  Later that morning, after Julie locks herself in her room, Dr. Nelson calls, and Alphonse goes missing, she realizes what must have happened.  Another crew member is sent to find and retrieve Alphonse, while Ferrand goes to Julie’s room.  He convinces her that her husband will forgive her, but Julie tells him that she has decided to live alone, because life is rotten.  Dr. Nelson suddenly arrives on the set, and does reconcile with Julie.  However, Ferrand uses Julie’s lines about living alone and life being rotten as dialogue in the film.  Alphonse is finally brought back, and on the advice of a crew member, decides not to bring up anything with Julie.  The two begin to shoot the movie’s final scene, only to receive news that Alexandre has died in a car crash.  Due to insurance constraints, Ferrand is forced to alter the film so that the ending does not show Alexandre’s face.  After they finish the scene, Alphonse tells Ferrand that he has been offered a movie in Japan, and has decided to accept it.  After their final day of filming is complete, everyone packs up their things and heads home.

MY TAKE:  I feel like this is a pretty real representation of what movie-making is like, and it convinced me that as much as I love movies, I couldn’t work on them.  The cast and crew form their own little world, complete with romances, scandals and tragedy.  The poor crew members, particularly the director and his lead assistant, don’t seem to have any rest, especially when their actors keep disappearing.  In Pamela in particular, each of the stars brings some personal baggage with them, which implodes during filming.  It’s rather like high school – for a short time, a small group of people is your entire world, and then when it’s over, you realize that it wasn’t the real world at all.  While the movie is interesting, there’s nothing particularly thrilling about it, as it’s basically just a story of people’s lives.  The biggest event, the death of Alexandre, is not shown at all, and comes out of nowhere.  The lack of action gets tiring after a while, though it is cool to see how movies are made, and how many people it takes to do so.

RATING:  Okay.


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