7 landmark performances by Jean-Pierre Léaud

#6 – DAY FOR NIGHT (1973) by Francois Truffaut
Day for Night is certainly the most significant collaboration between Truffaut and Léaud, aside from their works on the Antoine Doinel character. In a film about the making of a film, but more importantly about the alternate realities and surrogate families that create in the course of a film production, Léaud simply could not miss.
The interesting thing is that everyone, especially Léaud and Truffaut (not least of all because in any of their critical works about either man, the writer cannot help but mention one without the other), seem to take digs at their own true selves, playing almost a parody of what they are – or rather what audiences expected them to be – through their characters. Truffaut himself, of course, plays the pivotal director in the midst of a tumultuous production. Léaud, perhaps for the first time in his filmography, takes advantage of his childish, vain, self-centered and intellectual persona, the result of which comes close to parody.
In a small but important scene in Day for Night, Jacqueline Bisset, who plays his half-hearted love interest, suggest they go out. He suggests that they should go to the cinema. And throughout the film, he constantly looks at cinema listings. The reference to Doinel’s cinephilia is there, but it’s more charming to imagine that Léaud himself would be like that in real life for, given his early break in The 400 Blows. We like to think that he is in fact a child of cinema. A cinematic creation in body and soul, a cinematic special effect, much like the one implied in the title of the film itself.

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