The last Truffaut film I caught was Jules & Jim, which I didn’t care for all that much with it’s super long storyline. That and that it revolved around 2 guys who like the same girl who flits amongst the two. Something I can’t quite relate to all that much even if that sounds so dumb.

Les Quatre Cents Coups, or The 400 Blows on the other hand, is a different beast. This film is Truffaut’s first big hit and I can easily see why. It revolves around a young boy, Antoine Doinel, who’s about 13 or so. He’s pretty much a normal kid, only it seems like trouble has a way of getting him. He lives with his parents who don’t really care much for each other, even if they try at times. It’s also suggested that Antoine was born out of wedlock prior to his mother’s marriage and that she even wanted to abort him. The film is supposed to be sorta autobiographical, with Truffaut also having a similar background as the main character.

Antoine doesn’t really focus all that much at school and only keeps getting into trouble, to the point where it escalates until he pretty much goes to a juvenile detention centre, which seems a tad extreme or overexaggerated perhaps but his parents just don’t really care and can’t quite afford to keep him at home anyway. At one point, he’s inspired by the potential reward his mother offers him if he tries hard at school, even building a shrine to Balzac, his inspiration. Yet it all ends in disaster and it just feels like everything he does gets crapped on. So he’s pretty miserable, unloved, except by his good friend and bored.

The cinematography and camerawork is quite brilliant. Especially towards the end, when there’s this long tracking shot as Antoine runs on a beach until we reach the end scene, which is an unresolved, open one. This is all the more abetted by the wonderful soundtrack and the awesome scenes of Paris in the 50s. Super romantic. There’s also this really interesting scene shot from a high location that tracks Antoine’s class running through the streets of Paris, with a few of them breaking off from the pack every chance they got until there’s like just the bumbling P.E teacher and a few losers.

I’m pretty sure any boy can relate to this film. I sure did even if I was never as much of a supposed delinquent as Antoine is seen as through the view of his parents and the establishment. It isn’t just that you find something in the film that you understand but it’s how Truffaut presents the character through the moving lens. Absolutely top drawer stuff.

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