“This film is dedicated to Jean Renoir,” state the opening credits of Franois Truffaut’s thriller about a tobacco-plantation owner (Belmondo) and the mail-order bride (Deneuve) who dupes, seduces and destroys him. But the great humanist of Gallic cinema isn’t the movie’s real father figure; that would be Alfred Hitchcock, whose corpulent presence hangs over every frame of the younger director’s noir-by-numbers exercise. Still buzzing from his book-length interview with the Master of Suspense published several years prior, Truffaut already had the filmmaker on the brain when he set out to adapt the crime-fiction potboiler Waltz into Darkness by Cornell Woolrich (written under the pseudonym William Irish).
As an homage, the result was indeed impressive: the pitch-perfect aping of Bernard Hermann’s score, the masterful way that Truffaut duplicates his elder’s editing tricks and the pleasure of watching Deneuve sport a hairdo that might have been stolen off of Tippi Hedren’s scalp. Try to view this tale of a siren’s song as something chewier than a cover version of Hitch’s greatest hits, however, and what’s left is a facile take on l’amour fou. That doesn’t stop the stars, arguably at the peak of their impossible gorgeousness, from generating miraculous screen heat, but a minor work is still a minor work.—David Fear
Opens Fri; BAM.