In a book I am currently reading, The Early Film Criticism of François Truffaut by Wheeler Dixon (Indiana University 1993), there is an interesting section that deals with the obvious influence on Truffaut of Hollywood b-movies, particularly film noir.
According to Dixon, Truffaut and even his mentor, Jean Renoir, preferred b-features over a-productions. In a 1954 interview, Renoir was quite emphatic:
I’ll say a few words about Val Lewton, because he was an extremely interesting person; unfortunately he died, it’s already been a few years. He was one of the first, maybe the first, who had the idea to make films that weren’t expensive, with ‘B’ picture budgets, but with certain ambitions, with quality screenplays, telling more refined stories than usual. Don’t go thinking that I despise “B” pictures; in general I like them better than big, pretentious psychological films they’re much more fun. When I happen to go to the movies in America, I go see “B” pictures. First of all, they are an expression of the great technical quality of Hollywood. Because, to make a good western in a week, the way they do at Monogram, starting Monday and finishing Saturday, believe me, that requires extraordinary technical ability; and detective stories are done with the same speed. I also think that “B” pictures are often better than important films because they are made so fast that the filmmaker obviously has total freedom; they don’t have time to watch over him.
So all you b-movie fans you are in hallowed company!
[Cross-posted at Another Cinema Blog]
4 thoughts on “The B Connection: Lewton, Renoir and Truffaut”
The book you recommended seems very interesting…knowing me, I will probably purchase the book sooner, if not, later. Btw,
Have you ever read author Arthur Lyon’s book Death on The Cheap: The Lost “B” Movies of Film Noir!..?
or author Spencer Selby’s book Dark City: film noir?
Because I find both books to be very interesting books on film noir, Therefore, my advice to “noiraholics and non-noiraholics” alike is… try to purchase both, author Arthor Lyon’s book along with author Spencer Selby’s book Dark City: film noir together. (With the “latter” being considered “somewhat” a companion book to Lyons’ book…)
Believe me this “novice,” would have never thought of purchasing these 2 books together if I didn’t “over hear” a film noir aficionado, suggesting both titles to another “novice noiraholic.”
Btw, Like author Spicer,(Film Noir) he (Lyons), covers Producer Val Lewton’s work in his book too!
Wow! All I can say is WOW! Imagine getting such a recommendation on your film? Why is it that, in general, Western Europe has more appreciation for so-called B-movies than anywhere else? Or maybe some folks are so bored with typical American Cinema that they reject anything. Whatever the case, it’s nice to know that someone as creative and artistic as Renoir had a sweet spot for B-movies 🙂
Hi Dcd. No, I haven’t read those books – not yet anyway. Tks for the pointers.
Hi B-movie_filmmaker. Thanks for your visit, and yes, it is revealing that a lot of great movies would be languishing in studio vaults were it not for the French and others.
“So all you b-movie fans you are in hallowed company!”
Yay! Thank you for posting this, Tony. I happened to know, from reading, about Truffaut in particular (one of his consistent themes as a critic was finding the subtextual genius in many American B-films), but that quote by Renoir is a gem I had not yet discovered. I’ll have to seek this book out.