Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer, two filmmakers from the French New Wave period, are of particular interest to the readers among us because they were both so literary in their concerns. Truffaut’s most famous film, Jules et Jim, is based on the novel of the same name by Henri-Pierre Roche (a few copies available here). He also made a film out of Fahrenheit 451, the novel by Ray Bradbury. Truffaut’s most consistent, serial film project, The Adventures of Antoine Doinel, consists of five separate films that follow the life and loves of the titular character. All together, the films make quite a saga, comparable in terms of character depth and cultural definition to the works of Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Marcel Proust, and even Thomas Wolfe’s Eugene Gant. The last two in the list seem the most appropriate, and if you add Jack Kerouac with his many books that form the somewhat loosely delineated Legend of Dulouz, it seems like a comprehensive analogy. As Truffaut himself said in an interview sometime in the 1960’s, Antione Doinel is “both me and not me.” Truffaut said the same of Jean-Pierre Leaud, who plays Doinel from the troubled childhood of The 400 Blows to the culminating, romantically fraught Love on the Run, when Doinel is over thirty. Leaud is both Truffaut and not Truffaut. They were often thought to be related (father-son), and at other times, thought to be one another, despite the distinguishing age difference. The films of the Doinel series are all in-print, and the screenplays are available here. Truffaut was a great writer, and the tragedy of his early death does not end with the fact that he only made 25 of the 30 films he planned to make, but that he purportedly intended to end his days writing novels. I’m certain they would have been as compelling, artful, lovely, and tragically humorous as the best films in his oeuvre. Check out all the books we have by and about Francois Truffaut here. There are quite a few, so I will narrow the list with a few recommendations:
Francois Truffaut: Correspondence, 1945-1984
Noteworthy correspondents include Jean-Luc Goddard, Alfred Hitchcock, Louis Malle, Helen Scott, Eric Rohmer, and lifelong friend Robert Lachenay.
The Adventures of Antoine Doinel: Autobiographical Screenplays François Truffaut followed the life of one of his favorite characters from rebellious adolescence to irresponsible adulthood over the course of five films. The Adventures of Antoine Doinel traces Antoine (played by Jean-Pierre Léaud) and his ongoing battle against proper society in the movies The 400 Blows (aka (Les 400 Coups), Antoine and Colette, Stolen Kisses (aka Baisers Volés), Bed and Board (aka Domicile Conjugal), and Love on the Run (aka L’Amour en Fuite).
Eric Rohmer worked almost exclusively with series. His most famous films, including Claire’s Knee and My Night at Maud’s are two of a six-part series entitled “Six Moral Tales.” Other series include “Tales of the Four Seasons” and “Comedies and Proverbs.” Rohmer’s wrote the “Six Moral Tales” as a novel before it was a film.