THE 400 BLOWS (1959) B/W widescreen 97m Dir: Francois Truffaut
w/Jean-Pierre Leaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Remy, Guy Decombie, Patrick Auffay, Georges Flamant
Memorable study of an adolescent boy, neglected by his selfish parents, who discovers some unpleasant facts about life. The boy is played with great sensitivity by Leaud. The excellent photography and superb editing set the mood for this touching film, which is a seminal work of the French New Wave.
From The Movie Guide: "This extraordinary film was the first feature from Francois Truffaut, who was, until its release, best known as a hell-raising critic from the journal Cahiers du Cinema. THE 400 BLOWS is not only one of the foremost films of the French New Wave, but also the first in a Truffaut series that included 'Antoine and Colette' (an episode from LOVE AT TWENTY), STOLEN KISSES, BED AND BOARD, and LOVE ON THE RUN.
"These films all starred the remarkable Leaud as Truffaut's alter ego Antoine Doinel and span twenty years in this semiautobiographical character's life. Here Leaud beautifully embodies Doinel at age 12, a child more or less left to his own devices by his mother (Maurier) and father (Remy). He gets into trouble at school, runs away from home, and eventually ends up in an observation center for juvenile delinquents.
"THE 400 BLOWS --- an idiomatic French expression for the limit of what anyone can bear --- is a nonjudgmental film about injustice, pain, and the events in a young boy's life that make him the person he is. Neither good nor bad, Antoine is treated with warmth and compassion by Truffaut as a child caught up in a maelstrom not of his own making. The grace and perfection of THE 400 BLOWS has made it the standard against which all films on the subject of youth are judged, and Leaud's portrayal that to which all young performers' are compared.
"The film also features [Henri] Decae's poetic black-and-white photography, and together he and Truffaut offer a glimpse of the freedom that Antoine's life never really affords. Images such as a line of schoolboys snaking their way through the streets linger like pages from a mental yearbook of schooldays. Best of all, though, is the film's famous final freeze frame, in which Truffaut conveys both promise and sadness, and demonstrates that the cinema offers no easy answers to the problems of living."
Nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (Truffaut and Marcel Moussy).