Day for Night
Theatrical poster by Bill Gold
FrenchLa Nuit américaine
LiterallyAmerican Night
Directed byFrançois Truffaut
Written byFrançois Truffaut
Suzanne Schiffman
Jean-Louis Richard
Produced byMarcel Berbert
StarringJacqueline Bisset
Valentina Cortese
Alexandra Stewart
Jean-Pierre Aumont
Jean Champion
Jean-Pierre Léaud
François Truffaut
CinematographyPierre-William Glenn
Edited byMartine Barraquè-Curie, Yann Dedet
Music byGeorges Delerue
Les Films du Carrosse
Produzione Internazionale Cinematografica
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • 14 May 1973 (1973-05-14) (Cannes)
  • 24 May 1973 (1973-05-24) (France)
Running time
116 minutes
Box office839,583 admissions (France)[2]

Day for Night is a 1973 French film directed by François Truffaut, starring Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Léaud, and Truffaut himself. The original French title is La Nuit américaine ("American Night"), the French name for the filmmaking process whereby sequences filmed outdoors in daylight are shot with a filter over the camera lens (a technique described in the dialogue of Truffaut's film) or also using film stock balanced for tungsten (indoor) light and underexposed (or adjusted during post-production) to appear as if they are taking place at night. In English, the technique is called day for night.

It premiered out of competition at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film the following year.[3]


Day for Night chronicles the production of Je Vous Présente Paméla (Meet Pamela, or literally I want you to meet Pamela), a clichéd melodrama starring aging screen icon Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Aumont), former diva Séverine (Valentina Cortese), young heartthrob Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and a British actress, Julie Baker (Jacqueline Bisset), who is recovering from both a nervous breakdown and the controversy over her marriage to her much older doctor.

In between are several vignettes chronicling the stories of the crew members and the director, Ferrand (Truffaut), who deals with the practical problems of making a movie. Behind the camera, the actors and crew go through several romances, affairs, break-ups and sorrows. The production is especially shaken up when one of the supporting actresses is revealed to be pregnant. Later, Alphonse's lover leaves him for the film's stuntman, which leads Alphonse into a palliative one-night stand with an accommodating Julie; thereupon, mistaking Julie's pity for true love, the infantile Alphonse informs Julie's husband of the affair. Finally, Alexandre dies on the way to hospital after a car accident.


Cast notes:


The film was based on an original idea of Truffaut who said he wanted the picture to do for movies what Fahrenheit 451 did for books "to show why it is good to love the cinema". The film was shot in Nice on an enormous set for a Paris street originally built by an American company and used for Lady L and The Madwoman of Chaillot. Truffaut got the idea while editing Two English Girls.[6]

Truffaut used international actors because he felt French cinema did not have the mythological aspect he wanted. He said the film was influenced by The Golden Coach and Singing in the Rain; the latter was his favourite movie about filmmaking because it showed everyone involved in a film, not just the director and star.[7]

Bisset was cast in part because she spoke some French. "I was so flattered when he [Truffaut] called", said Bisset. "It's wonderful to work with someone who likes working with women".[8]

The movie was dedicated to the Gish sisters, whom Truffaut called "the first two actresses of the cinema"; he said the film was made in "the spirit of friendship for all the people in the movie business".[9]

Truffaut took a sabbatical after making the film.[10]


One of the film's themes is whether cinema is more important than life to those who make it. It makes many allusions both to filmmaking and to movies themselves, perhaps unsurprisingly since Truffaut began his career as a film critic who championed cinema as an art form. The film opens with a picture of Lillian and Dorothy Gish, to whom it is dedicated. In one scene, Ferrand opens a package of books he has ordered on directors such as Luis Buñuel, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Ingmar Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean-Luc Godard, Ernst Lubitsch, Roberto Rossellini and Robert Bresson. The film's French title could sound like L'ennui américain ("American boredom"): Truffaut wrote elsewhere[11] of the way French cinema critics inevitably make this pun of any title that uses nuit. Here he deliberately invites his viewers to recognise the artificiality of cinema, particularly American-style studio film, with its reliance on effects such as day for night, that Je Vous Présente Paméla exemplifies.


The film is often considered one of Truffaut's best. It is one of two Truffaut films on Time magazine's list of the 100 Best Films of the Century, along with The 400 Blows.[12] It has also been called "the most beloved film ever made about filmmaking".[13]

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars out of four, writing, "it is not only the best movie ever made about the movies but is also a great entertainment."[14] He added it to his "The Great Movies" list in 1997.[15] Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "hilarious, wise and moving," with "superb" performances.[16] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film four stars out of four, calling it "a movie about the making of a movie; it also is a wonderfully tender story of the fragile, funny, and tough people who populate the film business."[17] He named it the best film of 1973 in his year-end list.[18] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker called the film "a return to form" for Truffaut, "though it's a return only to form." She added, "It has a pretty touch. But when it was over, I found myself thinking, Can this be all there is to it? The picture has no center and not much spirit."[19] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called it "one of the most sheerly enjoyable movies of any year, for any audience. For those who love the movies as Truffault loves them, 'Day for Night' is a very special testament of that love."[20] Richard Combs of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "Easily classifiable as a lightweight work, and never digging much below the surface of either its characters or its director's particular concept of cinema, the film still manages to be an irresistable [sic?] delight simply because of the élan and ingenious craftsmanship with which its traditionally dangerous, self-conscious format is handled."[21]

Jean-Luc Godard walked out of Day for Night in disgust, and accused Truffaut of making a film that was a "lie". Truffaut responded with a long letter critical of Godard, and the two former friends never met again.[22]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards (1973)[23] Best Foreign Language Film Won
Academy Awards (1974)[24] Best Director François Truffaut Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Valentina Cortese Nominated
Best Original Screenplay François Truffaut, Suzanne Schiffman and Jean-Louis Richard Nominated
British Academy Film Awards[25] Best Film François Truffaut Won
Best Direction Won
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Valentina Cortese Won
Chicago International Film Festival Gold Hugo (Best Feature) François Truffaut Nominated
French Syndicate of Cinema Critics Awards Best French Film Won
Golden Globe Awards[26] Best Foreign Film Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Valentina Cortese Nominated
Nastro d'Argento Best Foreign Director François Truffaut Nominated
National Board of Review Awards[27] Top Five Foreign Films 2nd Place
National Society of Film Critics Awards[28] Best Film Won
Best Director François Truffaut Won
Best Supporting Actress Valentina Cortese Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[29] Best Film Won
Best Director François Truffaut Won
Best Supporting Actress Valentina Cortese Won
Online Film & Television Association Awards[30] Hall of Fame – Motion Picture Won

See also


  1. ^ Truffaut Describes Adventure of Film By MEL GUSSOW. New York Times 9 Oct 1973: 42.
  2. ^ Box Office information for Francois Truffaut films at Box Office Story
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Day for Night". Archived from the original on 26 September 2012. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  4. ^ Allen, Don. Finally Truffaut. New York: Beaufort Books. 1985. ISBN 0-8253-0335-4. OCLC 12613514. pp. 234.
  5. ^ French, Philip (25 July 2010). "The 10 best movie cameos". The Guardian. London.
  6. ^ Tho audiences may be jaded, Truffaut will remain Truffaut Mills, Bart. Chicago Tribune 6 Aug 1972: i13.
  7. ^ Blume, Mary. "Movies: Francois Truffaut's Real Love Affair With Film-making". Los Angeles Times, 14 Jan 1973, p. 22.
  8. ^ Kramer, Carol. "Movies: The decisive, decorative, diplomatic Miss Bisset". Chicago Tribune, 11 Mar 1973, p. E6.
  9. ^ Kramer, Carol. "Movies: Truffaut on film, in sharp focus". Chicago Tribune, 7 Oct 1973, p. E13.
  10. ^ Sweeney, Louise. "Profile: Francois Truffaut". The Christian Science Monitor, 18 June 1973, p. 7.
  11. ^ Hitchcock Paladin 1978 pp.111–112
  12. ^ "All-Time 100 Movies". Time. 12 February 2005. Archived from the original on 23 May 2005. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  13. ^ Sterritt, David "Day for Night (1973)"
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (7 September 1973). "Day for Night". Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (26 December 1997). "Day for Night". Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  16. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 29, 1973). "Screen: 'Day for Night'". The New York Times. 22.
  17. ^ Siskel, Gene (February 12, 1974). "Francois Truffaut triumphs in 'Day for Night'". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 4.
  18. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 29, 1974). "On the Big 10 scoreboard: Europe 6 U.S. 4". Chicago Tribune. Section 6, p. 2.
  19. ^ Kael, Pauline (October 15, 1973). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 160, 163.
  20. ^ Champlin, Charles (April 3, 1974). "Labor of Love From Truffault". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  21. ^ Combs, Richard (January 1974). "La Nuit Américaine (Day for Night)". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 41 (480): 12.
  22. ^ Gleiberman, Owen. "Godard and Truffaut: Their spiky, complex friendship is its own great story in 'Two in the Wave".
  23. ^ "The 46th Academy Awards (1974) Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on 15 March 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  24. ^ "The 47th Academy Awards (1975) Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  25. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1974". BAFTA. 1974. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  26. ^ "Day for Night – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  27. ^ "1973 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  28. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  29. ^ "1973 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  30. ^ "Film Hall of Fame Productions". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved 15 May 2021.