They could have called it Hitchcock/Truffaut/Scorsese/Fincher. Less an adaptation of one of the great books about film than a feature-length recommendation, Kent Jones's documentary take on François Truffaut's exhaustive career-survey 1966 interview with Alfred Hitchcock is an arresting précis, sharply edited and generous with its film clips -- it's a smashing supplement to Truffaut's classic study.
It's a thrill to hear the directors' voices, recorded fifty years ago. Hitchcock, in that clipped and finicky rumble of his, describes the precise moment in Vertigo when Jimmy Stewart's character is worked up at last to a full erection. Kent Jones and editor Rachel Reichman layer the talk over the scene itself: Stewart's frayed-nerve detective Scottie, almost panting in a hotel room lit the green of lime Jell-O, while Kim Novak's Judy at last ducks out to put her hair up in the manner of the dead woman he loves. To his credit, Hitchcock's matter-of-fact commentary makes a deliciously sick moment even more so.
But don't expect many such thorough explications. Jones's film, which comets through Hitch highlights before getting caught up in the gravity of Psycho and Vertigo, is no substitute for the book itself, which examines each of Hitchcock's movies, at some length, from the rarest of perspectives: that of working artists.
Jones has assembled today's directors of note to chip in. They tilt his film from shoptalk to awed appreciation, and too many rhapsodize about Hitchcockian generalities rather than his specific intentions and choices in individual films. (Jones, a film historian and programmer, mines the oeuvre to illustrate the vague encomiums.) Some, though, justify the decision to bring in more voices, especially Martin Scorsese, James Gray, and David Fincher.