Cine Club: The 400 Blows  {Le quatre cents coups}

Cine Club: The 400 Blows
Le quatre cents coups

France, 1959, 99 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Foreign
Language: French English Sub-Titles

HD Digital presentation - During his days as a notoriously contentious critic for the influential French film journal Cahiers du Cinema, François Truffaut proselytized for a “cinema of the first-person singular,” encouraging the creation of movies “even more personal than an autobiographical novel, more like a confession or an intimate diary.” When he made the transition from critic to creator as a cofounder of the iconoclastic Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) movement, he took his own words to heart. And while he was at it, he made this masterpiece.
Fifty years young and enduringly fresh and affecting, The 400 Blows is Truffaut’s frankly autobio¬graphical drama about growing up absurd in 1950s Paris. At once brutally specific and brilliantly emblematic, darkly melancholy and dizzyingly exuberant, the film focuses on Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a mischievous 14-year-old boy forced to endure the hard knocks of an emotionally deprived child¬hood. Ignored by self-absorbed parents and mistreated by clueless teachers, he channels his discontent into acts of rebellion – truancy, petty thievery – that ultimately cost him what little freedom he enjoys. Antoine’s misadventures are based on events from Truffaut’s own youth, for which the director clearly felt no rosy-hued nostalgia: “Adolescence,” he wrote in a 1959 essay, “leaves pleasant memories only for adults who can’t remember.” Twenty-six when he made The 400 Blows, Truffaut couldn’t forget.
Careening between extremes of exhilaration and despair, The 400 Blows represents the Nouvelle Vague ideal of capturing life on the run, with handheld cameras and frequent improvisation, far from the soundstage. But what sets Truffaut apart from most other filmmakers of his era – from most other filmmakers, period – is the deeply humanistic understanding he extends to all his characters, even the more unpleasant ones, and the unadulterated joy he conveys in the very act of making films, even one about his own unhappy childhood. “For me,” Truffaut noted, “cinema is not a sad imitation of life. It is an improvement on life.”

DIRECTOR: François Truffaut
Producer: François Truffaut
Editor: Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte
Screenwriter: François Truffaut, Marcel Moussy
Cinematographer: Henri Decaë
Principal Cast: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy, Guy Decomble, Georges Flamant
US Distributor: Janus Films

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