Francois Truffaut will go down in film history for his film debut. The 400 Blows was such a revolution in filmmaking and a great marker for the sea of change that it kicked off that it will not be forgotten. But he was not a one and done kind of filmmaker. In fact he kept making films up until his death in 1984, some twenty-five years after The 400 Blows was released. These films, with a few notable exceptions, have mostly been forgotten about by both film lovers and film critics. This is unfair to these later films, some of which were just as ingenious as The 400 Blows was. Films like Day for Night, The Story of Adele H, and The Last Metro should be more celebrated as examples of a director aging gracefully and leaning into his more mature style. Although Confidentially Yours is not as good as the three last films I named, I think it deserves more attention than just it being the last film Truffaut made before he died.
Confidentially Yours stars Fanny Ardant as Barbara Becker, an unhappy real estate office secretary. She is employed by an equally unhappy Julien Vercel, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant. One day Julien comes home to realize that his wife has been murdered and he is the suspected murderer of not only her but also his best friend. Nobody seems to believe him except Barbara Becker who goes on a fumbling journey to figure out who is the killer. This journey brings Julien and Barbara closer together until finally they kiss and become lovers. Barbara must now race against time to prevent another murder and clear the name of her lover.
If this movie description sounds like a lost plot from a Hitchcock movie, you wouldn’t be too far off. Truffaut was in love with Hitchcock movies and produced some of the first ethnographic work on his oeuvre while he was still alive. His homage to Hitchcock is clear not just in the plot structure, but also in the dialogue. Julien and Barbara spend most of their time in this movie bickering and exchanging witty lines that could have easily been the dialogue for To Catch a Thief. Truffaut also inserts a running joke that will only be caught if they are familiar with Hitchcock tropes. Truffaut makes fun of Fanny Adant’s hair. She is not blonde like the ice queens in Hitchcock’s movies and she is discounted because of it.
Unlike Hitchcock, Truffaut had more respect for women and made Barbara the active hero who is trying to clear the name of a mostly stagnant Julien. This is Fanny Ardant’s movie. She shines as the rough necked go-getter. She can flip on the charm in an instant only to flip it back over to the hard investigator the next. It seems that even the camera loves her more than anyone else in the picture. It lingers on her for long moments when it should probably be doing something else. As a consequence of this, Jean-Louis Trintignant is pushed over to the side. He is given little to do other than look worried and kiss Fanny and he is mediocre at both of these things. It is refreshing to see the lesser role be given to such a normally dominant male actor, but I think it would have been better if it was given to a character actor or even a mainstay of Truffaut’s movies, Jean-Pierre Leaud.
Confidentially Yours should be known for more than Truffaut’s last movie. It is a love poem to his lover, Fanny Ardant. It is a comment on typical gender roles. It is a riff on one of the masters of cinema’s signature style. But above all else it is a pleasant way to waste some time.