review for Day for Night on AllMovie

Day for Night (1973)
by Mark Pittillo review

A delightful love letter to the cinema by the great French filmmaker François Truffaut, La nuit américaine (Day for Night) is one of the best movies about making movies. Focusing on the backstage intrigues of an eccentric group of actors and technicians, Truffaut, a master of shifting tone, effortlessly guides the film from comedy to pathos and back again. It doesn't matter that the characters are making a film that is, from all available evidence, an utter stinker; La nuit américaine suggests that filmmaking, even hack filmmaking, is an inherently noble pursuit. Though he's careful not to downplay the more chaotic and even dangerous aspects of life in the film business, Truffaut clearly adores the heightened reality on display, both in front of the camera and behind it. Making a film is the only way that these characters (and by extension Truffaut) can be happy. Adding significantly to the film's pleasures are Georges Delerue's wistful score and the brilliant ensemble acting, most notably New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud as the neurotic young star Alphonse; Valentina Cortese as the brittle, alcoholic Sévérine; and Truffaut himself, playing the beleaguered director. A huge international success in its original run, the film won the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar of 1973 and landed nominations for Truffaut, Cortese, and the screenplay -- all rare accomplishments for a foreign-language film -- as well as New York Film Critics Circle and British Academy awards as the best film of the year.