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Box Finally Available in a Subtitled Version
Day for Night (DVD)
Francois Truffaut

  (This rating applies to the dubbed VHS edition)
 (This rating applies to the subtitled DVD edition) 
Only Half the Stars a Subtitled Copy Would Rate
(Originally posted October 5, 2002)
[This review refers to the dubbed VHS edition]
A wonderful film; the opening shot (with its surprise followup) is my second-favourite example of how camera movement can make or break a scene (my all-time favourite is that incredible crane shot in Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West"), and the peeks behind the silver screen that it gives us both de-mystify and increase our appreciation of the high art of film-making.

Something else it may point up for us is that, in Hollywood (and, to a lesser extent, in other nation's cinema industries), in Dory Previn's words "Female meat does not improve with time..."; movies continually cast lead actors in romantic roles opposite women twenty or thirty years their junior, but almost the only possible roles that allow an older woman to be romantically attracted to a younger male tend to portray the woman as a predator. Severine, the older actress playing the mother in the film within a film complains that she and Alexandre, the romantic lead, hit Hollywood at about the same time and here she is playing mothers and other "older women", and he's still playing the romantic lead who gets the young girl. (The irony of this is emphasised by the fact that, in 1973, Valentina Cortesa (Severine) was 48 and Jean Pierre Aumont (Alexandre) was 59 -- and she is cast as the aging actress playing the cast off older woman and he was the "mature" leading man getting the girl -- played by then-29-but-looking-younger Jacqueline Bissett).

The sequence in which Severine completely falls apart as she repeatedly blows take after take of a relatively simple scene is almost harrowing to watch; one almost wonders how Cortese was able to so convincingly simulate progressively broader problems until she is in near-hysteria without breaking down almost as badly as her character does.

The details of film technology are fascinating, as are the story and continuity problems that arise and (due to the fact that films are shot out of order and two scenes that take place one after the other on screen may well be shot in reverse order and days, even months, apart) must be taken into account and require rewrites and even reshoots (though one attempts to avoid those) -- such things as the death of the person playing a major character before all of that character's shots are in the can.

The dream sequences (in black & white) are, in fact, actual events from director Truffaut's childhood.

The only thing really wrong here is the abysmal English dubbing. Not only is it bad, in and of itself, but it decreases the sense of how truly international the production of "Je vous presente Pamela" is.

Also, it leads to absurdities in scenes like the one in which director Ferrand (Truffaut) announces (in French) that the important action scene will be shot in "nuit Americaine". The stunt man (British and not speaking a word of French) says "What?" and bi-lingual Julie (Bissett) translates it for him to the English-language term "Day for Night".

Consider the absurdity of this, as rendered in the dubbing with everyone dubbed in English, no matter what language they were originally speaking:

"We'll be shooting it day for night." "Huh?" "It means 'day for night'." "Oh. Thanks."
It's Finally Here With Subtitles!
March 26, 2003
[This review refers to the subtitled DVD version]
For years i have been not watching this film -- one of my very favourites -- because it was only available on VHS in an abysmally-dubbed version.

Well, now it's on DVD with the original French track and subtitles in English, and it's just as great as i've been remembering it from the last chance i had to see it theatrically.

The video transfer looks excellent, the sound is good, and the film is the film.

And there are goodies galore on the DVD as well; i haven't finished all of them yet.

If you haven't seen this film, now is the time to do so.

The latest subtitles have changed the punchline from my favourite joke (originally based on film terminology) to a rather obvious line that's flat and not really even very funny - just imagine that instead of "Hey - you changed your top!" (as now), the scriptgirl says (as in the original theatrical release's subtitles) "Wrong continuity, girl"...

((The dubbed track is also included for people who simply can't deal with subtitles.))