Truffaut Affair is Maltese Falcon meets Wizard of Oz
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They get you all excited with fancy sound-effects, overly loud music, and the freshest young faces—promising in trailer after trailer that this is gonna be different—and then you plunk down your fifteen bucks for a ticket to watch a rehash of a film that’s already been done. And done better fifty years ago. —Matthew Ben Miller
At a time when superhero movies reign at the box office, and more and more independent films focus on social issues, one young filmmaker seeks to find a cinematic middle ground between pure entertainment and a long-lost art.
Getting modern American audiences excited about a French film noir is no easy task, admits Matthew Ben Miller, who has acted and directed in Los Angeles for the past six years on projects including short films, web series, and commercials for the likes of Samsung.
“There’s a term in marketing called ‘Tricksterism’ and it’s practiced a lot in Hollywood,” Miller said. “They get you all excited with fancy sound-effects, overly loud music, and the freshest young faces—promising in trailer after trailer that this is gonna be different—and then you plunk down your fifteen bucks for a ticket to watch a rehash of a film that’s already been done. And done better fifty years ago.”
Known in indie circles for his eclectic tastes, Miller’s latest project is a direct departure from the types of movies modern American audiences have grown used to seeing.
And Miller couldn’t help but chuckle in his explanation.
“The Truffaut Affair is a romantic comedy thriller that brings the best of American noir and French Nouvelle Vague together,” Miller said. “There’s not a category for that in the Oscars but their ought to be.”
Nouvelle Vague, French for “New Wave,” began with a small group of filmmakers in Paris in the late-1950s who sought to make movies free of studio oversight, and with stories that focused more on theme, relationships, and philosophical explorations than on traditional three-act entertainment.
The movement's greats included Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Agnès Varda, Louis Malle, Henri Langlois, Chris Marker, and Miller's favorite filmmaker François Truffaut.
But what does Nouvelle Vague have to do with American film noir?
“The New Wave directors were heavily influenced by American cinema,” Miller said. “In fact, it was the French who coined the term ‘noir’ to describe Hollywood’s rash of post-World War II dark detective thrillers.”
He added, “François Truffaut was especially a fan of American noir, going so far as to defend Alfred Hitchcock, who—though now seen as a genius—was much panned and maligned by the filmmakers and critics of his day.”
Truffaut went on to conduct a series of filmed interviews with Hitchcock which he later turned into the book Hitchcock/Truffaut.
“Just as Truffaut used Hitchcock as inspiration for some of his films,” Miller said, “We’ve managed, along with the help of screenwriter Benjamin J. Gohs, to draw from both Hitchcock and Truffaut to help guide us in our process.”
The Truffaut Affair’s Producers Trevor Breithaupt and Lance B. Witmer bring a wealth of experience from a number of big projects to the table.
Breithaupt’s credits include numerous feature films, and work in various capacities on projects including Magnum PI, Obi Wan Kenobi, The Mandalorian, and The Morning Show.
Witmer has been a freelance Director/Producer in Los Angeles since 2017. He has written, directed, and produced the award-winning short film Halfdanr, and produced the hit Actor vs. CGI aka Movie Effects Gone Wrong, branded content for Samsung on the SoKrispyMedia YouTube channel.
Witmer has also worked on projects affiliated with major youtubers such as Mr. Beast and Zach King, and has produced for Aaron's Animals YouTube channel since 2021, accumulating hundreds of millions of views.
The Truffaut Affair, currently in preproduction in Los Angeles, is about a struggling young actor who goes to a bizarre movie audition conducted by an old French director and finds himself unwittingly cast in a real-life noir thriller.
“Describing our project has really been the biggest challenge so far,” Miller said. “To say it’s a little like The Truman Show or The Man Who Knew Too Little or The Maltese Falcon is unintentionally misleading. What we’ve set out to do is subvert expectations, make people think, and leave audiences feeling both entertained and refreshed for not having been subjected to the same old thing.”
He added, “But now that I hear myself, I’m coming dangerously close to engaging in tricksterism. Ultimately, it’ll be up to the viewer to decide if we’ve accomplished our goal. But, yeah, I feel really good about the project.”
So, how did a twenty-something California boy become enthralled in a movie genre from nearly seventy years ago?
“My grandmother was French. She was a nurse in World War II,” Miller said. “She loved old French movies. She taught me to speak French. She used to tell me stories of her time over there. She made it all seem so magical.”
An unapologetic Francophile, Miller hiked his way across Europe in 2020, spending much of his time in Paris and the French countryside.
“It was an adventure of a lifetime,” he said. “I met so many amazing people, saw so many amazing things—the food, the wine, the old architecture.”
Miller also has a road trip movie project, based on his French exploits, in the works.
“So many times along my trip I kept stopping and saying to myself: ‘This is like something out of a movie,’” he said. “My hope is to direct a trilogy of American movies with a French flair similar to the Before series.”
Miller refers to Richard Linklater’s movies Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.
“I just love the use of dialog and subtle romance, and the backdrop of beautiful Old World locales,” Miller said.
Like most independent filmmakers, funding is the biggest production hurdle to The Truffaut Affair.
“We’re on a microbudget, so every penny counts,” Miller said. “The writer and I aren’t taking a salary, so every bit of money we raise will go to pay cast and crew.”
Miller is hoping to raise $30,000 to cover filming and post-production this spring so shooting can begin in summer of 2023.
“One way or another, we’re going to make this movie,” Miller said. “It’s too good a story not to.”
For more information on The Truffaut Affair film project, visit www.truffautmovie.com. Follow Miller’s efforts on Instagram @truffautaffair and search The Truffaut Affair page on Facebook. Info on Miller’s IndieGoGo fundraising campaign will soon be available.