Tuesday, 24 February 2015
The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups) 
Though Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge is considered as the 1st French Nouvelle Vague output, along with Godard’s Breathless and Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour, The 400 Blows, through which Truffaut transitioned from Cashiers du Cinema to being an auteur, shot the iconoclastic movement to universal attention and marked a watershed moment for world cinema. Dedicated to his mentor André Bazin and based on episodes from his troubled adolescence, this was also the 1st screen appearance for Jean-Pierre Léaud, who would reprise the role of Truffaut’s picaresque alter-ego Antoine Doinel in Antoine et Colette, Stolen Kisses, Bed and Board and Love on the Run. 12 years old Doinel lives in a cramped apartment with his self-centered mother (Claire Maurier) and amiable step-father (Albert Rémy), and is perennially at the receiving end of his school teacher’s (Guy Decomble) wrath on account of his lack of interest in studies. René (Patrick Auffay), belonging to a wealthy but broken family, is his sole friend, and together they escape their dreary lives by skipping school, going to the cinemas and roaming around the streets of Paris. However, what starts as little acts of fibbing slowly escalates and plunges Antoine towards reluctant delinquency, culminating in the heart-breaking run of escape and finally the iconic freeze frame parting shot that marvelously alluded to the indeterminate limbo he’s become sucked into. Freedom, rebelliousness, friendship and the search for a father-figure were the dominant themes of this profound tale of lost innocence. Shot in sparkling B/W and comprising of a haunting score, the tale’s over-arching tragedy was brilliantly punctuated with both humorous and heart-warming moments, making this immensely influential work one of the great examples of ‘personal cinema’.
Note: My earlier review of the film can be found here.
Director: Francois Truffaut
Genre: Drama/Film a Clef/Coming-of-Age/Urban Drama