The critic-turned-director François Truffaut is one of 20th century cinema’s pivotal players. His first vibrant and youthful films like “The 400 Blows,” “Shoot the Piano Player” and “Jules and Jim” kick-started the French New Wave in the early 1960s.
For many that’s all they know of him (plus his turn as the UFO expert in Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”) Downtown art house Metrograph would like to correct that, and has programmed seven of his more mature movies, all on 35 mm prints.
On the juicier side is 1968’s “The Bride Wore Black,” Truffaut’s sly homage to Alfred Hitchcock, which came on the heels of the film school urtext “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” a book-length conversation between the two directors. In “Bride,” a vengeful Jeanne Moreau slowly hunts down, traps and kills the five men responsible for her husband’s death. If this sounds a little reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” it’s by design.
A little more upbeat is 1976’s “Small Change,” an essentially plot-free and (mostly) rosy portrait of schoolchildren in a small village, with a lot of cinematic splash. It’s no surprise that Wes Anderson cites it as one of his favorites; his “Moonlight Kingdom” features some direct references.
The 1970 black-and-white drama “The Wild Child” features another side of growing up. Truffaut himself plays Dr. Jean Itard, a physician that works to socialize a 12 year-old feral child found in late 18th century France. Truffaut also stars in 1978’s “The Green Room,” a dour adaptation of a Henry James short story about an obituary writer and World War I veteran convinced that society is disrespectful to the dead. In addition to his own ascetic lifestyle, he is committed to transforming a decrepit chapel into a monument to forgotten people.
Far more lively is a Hitchcock-inspired romantic thriller, 1969’s “Mississippi Mermaid” starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve. The pair romp from an island off the coast of Madagascar to the south of France to the Alps, bringing highly photographable intrigue with them. Similarly globe-hopping is 1975’s “The Story of Adèle H.,” for which 20 year-old Isabelle Adjani became the then-youngest woman to get an Academy Award Best Actress nomination. As the lovesick daughter of Victor Hugo, Adjani follows an ex-boyfriend/soldier from Guernsey to Halifax to Barbados. Whether she’s a crazed stalker or victim is up to you to decide.
The program rounds out with 1977’s “The Man Who Loved Women,” a popular sex comedy that does little to refute French stereotypes.
Truffaut x 7 runs Wednesday through Aug. 24 at The Metrograph, 7 Ludlow St., tickets and times at metrograph.com