This is my second reading of this journal and it’s been a long time since the first. From 1982–84, as I finished up my last two years at school and looked forward to the day when I could get the hell out of there, a copy of this book was a permanent fixture on my English teacher’s desk. When I got through with the assignments, I would borrow it for 10–20 minutes and read some more. My teacher had no problem with me loaning the book for the duration but, much to my chagrin, he wouldn’t let me have the book for keeps. And so I read it in segments and only during quiet spells of his lessons. I don’t blame him for not giving up his copy because I wouldn’t have either, in his place. I saw the movie a year or two earlier and I loved it. I still do. Over the decades, I’ve sat through numerous repeat viewings and it’s lost none of its magic.
Author, Bob Balaban, played David Laughlin, map-maker and interpreter to Francois Truffaut’s character, the scientist and ufologist, Claude Lacombe.
His personal journal takes the reader behind the scenes with an insight into his own reservations about his ability to speak French well enough to fulfill his role. There are some witty observations, with others that are alarming: Melinda Dillon suffered an ankle injury and kept it hidden during numerous retakes – attempting not to hop as she ran up the base of Devil’s Tower, at the same time on consecutive days to maintain the continuity of lighting, the death threats made to Richard Dreyfuss, the extra who was almost torn in half by barbed wire during a stunt involving a car breaking through a fence and racing across a field.
Speaking as a life-long fan of the movie, and an incurable movie buff, this book was a pleasure to read.
It’s also a fun movie to introduce to people who are watching it for the first time. I make the room as dark as possible, turn up the volume, the music rises over the opening credits (white words against a black background), building to a loud crescendo … then comes a blast of sound with the screen simultaneously becoming bright, filling the room with light. I always grin with a joker’s sense of accomplishment as friends jump in their seats. I salute Steven Spielberg for his movie making genius and it makes me sad that I missed seeing this on the big cinema screen. What a way to start the movie!