The directorial debut of French film critic François Truffaut stars Jean-Pierre Leo and explores childhood and rebellion against the injustice of adult world.
Paris in the late 1950s. Antoine Doinel is considered a troubled teen. He and his friend skip school, and his teachers think he’s to blame for everything and punish him for the smallest misdemeanors. One day he is caught stealing a typewriter and sent to a detention center. In fact, he is lonely, and of all the adults in his life only his stepfather offers occasional support. Because of the coldness and indifference of his family and the system, Antoine decides to go on the run.
Antoine’s story was written by Truffaut based on his own biography and childhood memories. The film’s psychological authenticity comes from the way the director gave the child actors space to improvise the script. The teen’s regimented existence in school and at home, and, in contrast, his freedom on the street and in the crowd, was captured by cinematographer Henri Decaë using the traditions of documentary cinema. A former war photographer, he became Jean-Pierre Melville’s regular cinematographer and in many ways defined the visual language of the French new wave. The film was shot in the city’s streets, squares, and apartments rather than in the studio, and the scenes provide the viewer with numerous angles—a participant carefully observing what is happening or a random witness admiring the city from on high.
Regardless of the ideological differences between Truffaut the film critic and the organizers of the Cannes Film Festival, in 1959 the film was shown there and won the Best Director Award. With its revolutionary dramaturgy and use of visuals, the film was one of the first works of the French new wave and was named one of the best films of all time by Sight & Sound magazine.
The film will be shown in French and English with Russian subtitles.
The 400 Blows
Director François Truffaut
France, 1959, 98 min.