Day for Night (film)

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Day for Night
La Nuit oscar.jpg
Theatrical poster by Bill Gold
La Nuit américaine
Directed byFrançois Truffaut
Produced byMarcel Berbert
Written byFrançois Truffaut
Suzanne Schiffman
Jean-Louis Richard
StarringJacqueline Bisset
Valentina Cortese
Alexandra Stewart
Jean-Pierre Aumont
Jean Champion
Jean-Pierre Léaud
François Truffaut
Music byGeorges Delerue
CinematographyPierre-William Glenn
Edited byMartine Barraquè-Curie, Yann Dedet
Les Films du Carrosse
Produzione Internazionale Cinematografica
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • 14 May 1973 (1973-05-14) (Cannes)
  • 24 May 1973 (1973-05-24) (France)
Running time
116 minutes
Box office839,583 admissions (France)[1]

Day for Night (French: La Nuit américaine) is a 1973 French film directed by François Truffaut. It stars Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Pierre Léaud. It is named after the filmmaking process referred to in French as la nuit américaine ("American night"), whereby sequences filmed outdoors in daylight are shot using a filter placed over the camera lens (the technique described specifically in the dialogue of Truffaut's film) or also using film stock balanced for tungsten (indoor) light and underexposed (or adjusted during post production) to appear as if they are taking place at night. In English, the technique is called day for night, which is the film's English title.

It had its premiere out of competition at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.[2]


Day for Night chronicles the production of Je Vous Présente Paméla (Meet Pamela, also called I want you to meet Pamela), a clichéd melodrama starring ageing screen icon Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Aumont), former diva Séverine (Valentina Cortese), young heart-throb Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and a British actress, Julie Baker (Jacqueline Bisset), who is recovering from both a nervous breakdown and the controversy leading to her marriage with her much older doctor.

In between are several vignettes chronicling the stories of the crew-members and the director, Ferrand (Truffaut himself), who tangles with the practical problems of making a movie. Behind the camera, the actors and crew go through several romances, affairs, break-ups and sorrows. The production is especially shaken up when one of the supporting actresses is revealed to be pregnant. Later, Alphonse's fiancée leaves him for the film's stuntman, which leads Alphonse into a palliative one-night stand with an accommodating Julie; thereupon, mistaking Julie's pity for true love, the infantile Alphonse informs Julie's husband of the affair. Finally, Alexandre dies on the way to hospital after a car accident.


  • Bernard Ménez as Bernard, the prop man
  • Zénaïde Rossi as Madame Lajoie
  • Gaston Joly as Gaston
  • Xavier Saint-Macary as Christian, Alexandre's lover
  • Jean Panisse as Arthur
  • Maurice Séveno as the TV reporter
  • Claude Miller as hotel guest invited to cast dinner
  • Christophe Vesque as the boy in Ferrand's dream
  • Marcel Berbert as an Insurer[3]

Cast notes:

  • Author Graham Greene makes a cameo appearance as an insurance company representative, billed under the name "Henry Graham".[4] On the film's DVD, it was reported that Greene was a great admirer of Truffaut, and had always wanted to meet him, so when the small part came up where he actually talks to the director, he was delighted to have the opportunity. It was reported that Truffaut was unhappy he wasn't told until later that the actor playing the insurance company representative was Greene, as he would have liked to have made his acquaintance, himself being an admirer of Greene's work.


One of the film's themes is whether or not films are more important than life for those who make them. It makes many allusions both to film-making and to movies themselves, perhaps unsurprisingly given that Truffaut began his career as a film critic who championed cinema as an art form. The film opens with a picture of Lillian and Dorothy Gish, to whom it is dedicated. In one scene, Ferrand opens a package of books he has ordered: they are books on directors he admires such as Luis Buñuel, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Ingmar Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean-Luc Godard, Ernst Lubitsch, Roberto Rossellini and Robert Bresson. The film's title in French could sound like L'ennui américain ('American boredom'): Truffaut wrote elsewhere[5] of the way French cinema critics inevitably make this pun of any title which uses 'nuit'. Here he deliberately invites his viewers to recognise the artificiality of cinema, particularly the kind of American-style studio film, with its reliance on effects such as day-for-night, that Je Vous Présente Paméla exemplifies.


The film is often considered one of Truffaut's best films. For example, it is one of two Truffaut films featured on Time magazine's list of the 100 Best Films of the Century, along with The 400 Blows.[6] It has also been called "the most beloved film ever made about filmmaking".[7]

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars out of four and wrote that it "is not only the best movie ever made about the movies but is also a great entertainment."[8] He added it to his "Great Movies" list in 1997.[9] Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "hilarious, wise and moving," with "superb" performances.[10] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film four stars out of four and described it as "a movie about the making of a movie; it also is a wonderfully tender story of the fragile, funny, and tough people who populate the film business."[11] He named it the best film of the year in his year-end list.[12] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker called the film "a return to form" for Truffaut, "though it's a return only to form." She added, "It has a pretty touch. But when it was over, I found myself thinking, Can this be all there is to it? The picture has no center and not much spirit."[13] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called it "one of the most sheerly enjoyable movies of any year, for any audience. For those who love the movies as Truffault loves them, 'Day for Night' is a very special testament of that love."[14] Richard Combs of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "Easily classifiable as a lightweight work, and never digging much below the surface of either its characters or its director's particular concept of cinema, the film still manages to be an irresistable [sic?] delight simply because of the élan and ingenious craftsmanship with which its traditionally dangerous, self-conscious format is handled."[15]

Jean-Luc Godard walked out of Day for Night in disgust, and accused Truffaut of making a film that was a "lie". Truffaut responded with a long letter critical of Godard, and the two former friends never met again.[16]

Awards and nominations

Year Award ceremony Category Nominee Result
1975 Academy Awards Best Director François Truffaut Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Valentina Cortese Nominated
Best Original Screenplay François Truffaut, Jean Louis Richard, Suzanne Schiffman Nominated
1974 Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Day for Night Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Valentina Cortese Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Day for Night Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Film Day for Night Won
Best Direction François Truffaut Won
Best Supporting Actress Valentina Cortese Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Film Day for Night Won
Best Director François Truffaut Won
Best Supporting Actress Valentina Cortese Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Day for Night Won
Best Director François Truffaut Won
Best Supporting Actress Valentina Cortese Won
French Syndicate of Cinema Critics Prix Méliès Day for Night Won
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Best Foreign Director François Truffaut Nominated
1973 National Board of Review Awards Top Foreign Language Films Day for Night Won
Chicago International Film Festival Best Feature Day for Night Nominated

See also


  1. ^ Box Office information for Francois Truffaut films at Box Office Story
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Day for Night". Archived from the original on 26 September 2012. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  3. ^ Allen, Don. Finally Truffaut. New York: Beaufort Books. 1985. ISBN 0-8253-0335-4. OCLC 12613514. pp. 234.
  4. ^ French, Philip (25 July 2010). "The 10 best movie cameos". The Guardian. London.
  5. ^ Hitchcock Paladin 1978 pp.111–112
  6. ^ "All-Time 100 Movies". Time. 12 February 2005. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  7. ^ Sterritt, David "Day for Night (1973)"
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (7 September 1973). "Day for Night". Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (26 December 1997). "Day for Night". Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  10. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 29, 1973). "Screen: 'Day for Night'". The New York Times. 22.
  11. ^ Siskel, Gene (February 12, 1974). "Francois Truffaut triumphs in 'Day for Night'". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 4.
  12. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 29, 1974). "On the Big 10 scoreboard: Europe 6 U.S. 4". Chicago Tribune. Section 6, p. 2.
  13. ^ Kael, Pauline (October 15, 1973). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 160, 163.
  14. ^ Champlin, Charles (April 3, 1974). "Labor of Love From Truffault". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  15. ^ Combs, Richard (January 1974). "La Nuit Américaine (Day for Night)". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 41 (480): 12.
  16. ^ Gleiberman, Owen. "Godard and Truffaut: Their spiky, complex friendship is its own great story in 'Two in the Wave".

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