October’s theme for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur is French New Wave Films. Because I’m not as familiar with this particular genre as I am with others, I had to look up potential titles for this review. One of the films that appeared in my internet search was the 1973 French film, Day for Night. When I read the movie’s tagline, “A movie for people who love movies”, I felt it was the perfect choice for the movie blogger I am! MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur is not the only reason why I’m reviewing this film. Day for Night is also my choice for Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s 4th Annual Great Breening Blogathon! When I participated in this specific blogathon last year, I reviewed Vampyr, a movie released before the Breen Code was created. As I already said, Day for Night was released in 1973, two decades after the Breen Code era. Like my Vampyr review, this current article is going to be a blog follower dedication review. Last week, 18 Cinema Lane received 250 followers!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I’ve said before one of my favorite Hallmark films is An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving. The acting performances are a great part of it, especially Jacqueline Bisset’s portrayal of Isabella. In Day for Night, Jacqueline portrayed American actress, Julie Baker. Her on-screen persona was a pleasant surprise, as it was down-to-earth and kind. This was very different from the “diva” attitude that some lead actress characters are given in stories of this nature. Valentina Cortese is another actress that gave a memorable performance in Day for Night! She portrays Severine, an older actress looking for a come-back. One scene shows Severine turning to drinking as a way to get through the scene and cope with personal issues. Valentina effectively showed the emotional transition her character was experiencing; starting out confident but slowly turning to sadness as the scene continues. Jean-Pierre Léaud portrays Alphonse, a fellow actor who works alongside Julie and Severine. His performance came across very natural on screen, making it look effortless. A scene that shows Alphonse having a bad evening is a good example of this, the look on his face appearing defeated and his body language showing the audience how he was walking aimlessly in a hotel hallway.
The film-making process: The story of Day for Night revolves around a director making a movie alongside his cast and crew. A behind the scenes lens is how the film is presented, with the production process being the primary focus. As someone who loves movies, I found this part of Day for Night fascinating! Seeing the different ways film-making related problems were solved was interesting to watch! The director of the film’s movie, Ferrand, is looking for a car for an upcoming scene. Because of the movie’s budget, he ends up using a car from one of the crew members. Later in the production of “Meet Pamela” (the movie being filmed in Day for Night), the cast and crew are struck with a tragedy. Ferrand decides to cut some scenes from the movie as a result of this event. He discusses these decisions with a script writer named Joëlle, as well as talking with investors.
The cat scene: While filming “Meet Pamela”, the cast and crew want to include a cat drinking milk from a food tray. At first, a kitten is placed in the scene. However, the kitten doesn’t take direction very well. After several failed attempts, the director decides to use a “studio cat” instead. To me, this scene was hilarious because it was a good use of the “comedy of errors” style of humor. It also highlights the idea of animals being difficult to work with in film.
What I didn’t about the film:
Thinly written characters: Day for Night features an ensemble cast, showing their audience how multiple people are responsible for the creation of a single movie. However, all of these characters are thinly written, as they were defined by the main issue they were dealing with in the film’s story. For example, Julie experienced a breakdown prior to the events of Day for Night. Because of this, Julie is known as “the woman who experienced a breakdown”. Throughout the movie, she does talk about her marriage to her doctor and her working hours as an actress. But her personal situation is highlighted the most.
Too much going on: As I just mentioned, this movie has an ensemble cast. This means there are a lot of characters involved in the overall story. It also means Day for Night contains several subplots. Personally, I found it difficult to keep up with the characters, as I thought there were too many to focus on. Even though this happened briefly, there were moments when I forgot who was who. The subplots were not interesting to me, as they revolved around situations I just didn’t care about. It felt more like a bland soap opera than a compelling part of the behind the scenes of “Meet Pamela”. Honestly, I wish this movie had put more emphasis on the film-making aspect of the narrative.
The director’s dreams: On three separate occasions, the dreams of the director, Ferrand, are shown. These scenes are filmed in black-and-white and contain no dialogue. I thought the inclusion of the dreams were random, as they didn’t seem to have anything to do with the overarching story. It also doesn’t help that no explanations are provided for what these dreams could mean. If anything, they were simply there to satisfy the run-time.
My overall impression:
Like I said in the introduction, the tagline of Day for Night is “A movie for people who love movies”. While I do love movies, I did not love this film. Sure, there were things about it I liked, such as the acting and the film-making process shown. But if you’re going to make a movie, you need to provide your audience with interesting characters worth watching. The characters in Day for Night were thinly written, defined by their personal situations. Even though it can be intriguing to see how characters overcome their obstacles, they have to have other qualities about them. Because of the poor writing for the characters, their subplots were not interesting. Issues among them were basically at a stand-still, not really getting resolved to a satisfying degree. What would have helped this story is if were presented in a mockumentary format, giving more emphasis to the behind the scenes aspect of film-making. Before I end this review, I want to thank all 250 of 18 Cinema Lane’s followers! The success this blog has received would never have happened without you!
Overall score: 6.2 out of 10
Have you seen Day for Night? Are there any movies about film-making you’ve seen? Please tell me in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!