Screening and Reading commentary
The 400 blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959)
Paper by Lucien Bourjeily
After viewing “the 400 blows” one feels a very strong connection between the filmmaker and the subject of the film which turns out to be present even more than anticipated since the film is indeed semi-autobiographical and most of the events depicted in the film are directly inspired from Truffaut’s own troubled youth and his uneasy relationship with his parents (Neupert, History, 182). However, what one would expect from a “new wave” film is not directly noticeable at first sight like it is in Breathless (Godard, 1960), although, as soon as we delve deeper into dissecting the movie we discover that it is far from being ordinary and it is full of unexpected twists relating to both from and content.
First, the really insightful approach I felt was the point of view in which Truffaut chooses to tell us the story and the way he portrayed children and especially the main protagonist Antoine (Jean-Pierre Léaud) as fully aware of what is happening to him, thus, avoiding all sorts of clichés about children as Amis du Film noted in its review: “the real novelty of the 400 Blows was that Antoine is not a tearful, fearful child but rather a real person and a survivor” (Neupert, History, 184). The scene that depicts this the most is most probably when he first decides to leave the house, after he is caught claiming that his mother is dead as an excuse to missing a day at school, to sleeps at a printing press. He takes this decision without hesitation or anxiety about the future and then goes back to school the next day as if nothing unusual has happened to him. Most certainly this rebellious behavior and this original viewpoint of an independent and self aware 13 years old boy appeals to teenagers who were a central audience to the French New Wave films (Neupert, History, 15)....
Bibliography: 1. Richard Neupert, A history of the French New Wave cinema (Wisconsin, The university of Wisconsin press, 2002), 3- 206
2. Peter Graham and Ginetter Vincendeau, The French New Wave: Critical Landmarks (London, British Film Institute, 2009), 38 - 219
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