The 400 Blows
France | 1959 | 99’ | DCP | Colour | French/English | Group: B
Director: Francois Truffaut
It’s still a thrill to watch Francois Truffaut’s seminal, autiobiographical cri de coeur from 1959 and you can feel the traditions of cinema changing as you watch it. Much of the drama takes place on the wintry streets of Paris and you could be watching a handheld documentary as Antoine and his buddy Rene skip school and wander through the city with a confidence well beyond their age. But while Truffaut’s film may be rigorously matter-of-fact in its loosely structured mise en scene, it is also filled with artful scenes of pure, glorious cinema – from the joyful funfair ride to the aerial shot of the kids breaking away in clumps from their sports teacher to the iconic dash for the beach and of course the final profound sequence on the beach itself. It’s still bold today, and still daring, and still deeply moving. Without using any sentimental tricks, Truffaut and his superb 14 year-old lead Jean-Pierre Leaud break our hearts as we bear witness to the casual neglect and abuse of Antoine’s childhood.
As a rule, adults tend to wax sentimental over their childhood, describing it as “the happiest time of my life”. To Antoine Doinel a 13 year-old boy living in Paris, nothing could be further from the truth. At school, he is frequently punished as one of the most unruly boys in the classroom and at home he is thoroughly cowed by his parents who are so concerned with their own problems that they make no effort to display affection towards the boy, or to understand his problems. Is it any wonder that he misbehaves and steals a typewriter from his father’s office?
Born in Paris on Feb 6, 1932, Francois Truffaut began his career as a film critic and was one of the most famous members of the French “Nouvelle Vague”. His first film, Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) was a huge success and a powerful manifest of this new film aesthetics. Thanks to both original scripts (especially the Antoine Doinel series) and book adaptations (Jules and Jim, Two English Girls), he became quickly a successful and well-known director. His career encompassed other classics like Shoot The Piano Player (1960), Fahrenheit 451 (1966), The Bride Wore Black (1968), Day For Night (1973), The Story Of Adele H (1975) and The Last Metro (1980). He died suddenly on the Oct 21 1984 but still has a great influence on French and international cinema.
Cast & Crew
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