François Truffaut letter to Jean Renoir -- Oct 1960
François Truffaut's letters to (and from) Jean Renoir were not published in Correspondence 1945-1984 /François Truffaut. That corrspondence was withheld and published a few years later in Jean Renoir : letters / edited by David Thompson and Lorraine LoBianco ; translations by Craig Carlson, Natasha Arnoldi, Michael Wells ; translations of the letters of François Truffaut by Anneliese Varaldiev. The first letter in that collection written by Truffaut to Renoir was written on October 31, 1960 with a short addendum written on November 20 just before Truffaut got around to sending it. These two excerpts are from that letter.
letter of Oct 31 1960
I haven't really kept up-to-date on what you're doing these days (teaching cinema courses?), but if any of your current activities might result in writing something which you would entrust to Cahiers, I can assure you that we would be extremely grateful for it. All of us at Cahiers have resorted to "begging for alms", as it were -- you see, we (Godard, Rivette, Doniol and myself) are so shocked by the gap between our ideas as cinephiles and our discoveries as film-makers that we don't dare write anything any more. Nevertheless, so much journalistic attention has been paid to the "New Wave" that the magazine is selling better than ever.
The situation with French cinema is very strange at the moment -- the number of films produced has doubled within a year, and in the last year's euphoria, many young film-makers jumped in feet first and made films without producers. And what's more, some young producers have also thrown themselves into the water the same way, by producing films without having distribution for them. What this means is that right now, distributors (and especially exhibitors) are in a very advantageous position: they can sit back and let the films pile up -- and collectively depreciate. Then they can pick and chose the ones they want, only taking what they think is sure to do well at the box office. And so, for most films, the market is totally closed off -- the only films which get released are by major directors, with big budgets and stars. Perhaps the revolution in film production happened too quickly, too roughly, or perhaps what's to blame is that no restructuring took place at the level of distribution and exhibition. In any case, the "New Wave" is currently coming under such attack -- from all sides -- that in order to survive, it needs to come up with a big hit every three months. The most recent one, last February, was Jean-Luc Godard's A Bout de Souffle. Ever since then, we've been massacred. Godard's second film, Le Petit Soldat (about torture) was completely banned by the censors, and everything else has completely flopped or was never released in the first place -- even some really lovely films, like Eric Rohmer's Le Signe du Lion.
page 400-401 (translated by Annaliese Varaldiev)
Sunday 20 November
I let this letter go unfinished for a couple of weeks, feeling doubtful that the one-way chatter I'm imposing on you is even worth sending. But, as I am leaving Paris the day after tomorrow and will be gone for a number of days, I decided that I might as well send it after all. My film, Tirez sur le Pianiste, is opening here in Paris next Friday -- that's why I'm escaping to where it's warm and sunny, because I predict the worst. It's a small tight-lipped film without laughs and at times sad, and is in no way suitable for a big first-run house on the Champs-Elysées; in a cinema like that it's bound to be buried.
page 401 (translated by Annaliese Varaldiev)