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The 400 Blows

5_cover Francois Truffaut’s debut film not only galvanized the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) movement of French cinema, but also generated a personal language of cinema that Truffaut would elaborate on for the rest of his career. Based on Truffaut’s troubled childhood "Les quatre cent coups" represents a chapter of narrative history seemingly ripped from his personal diary. Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is the precocious yet well meaning child of ambivalent parents. Circumstances at school and at home conspire against Antoine when his every minor indiscretion is perceived as a sign of irredeemable delinquency. It isn’t long before Antoine is conforming to the color that his character has been painted, and finds himself in a reform school where he clearly doesn’t belong. Truffaut gives the audience a bold example of how youthful rebellion is fomented by myopic societal and parental authority figures. Jean-Pierre Leaud’s guileless performance is one of the most affecting and memorable renderings of character in all of world cinema. Antoine’s dire circumstances delineate a specific period of suppressive ideology that existed in Europe and America during the ‘50s and ‘60s. However, the cathartic power of "The 400 Blows" on its audience is timeless and all consuming. I would argue that Truffaut never again achieved the narrative clarity of his first film, because he infused so much individual passion and pain into it. "The 400 Blows" is a deeply moving and truly remarkable film that has inspired legions of audience members and would-be directors. Extensive special features include restored HD digital transfer, audio commentary by cinema professor Brian Stonehill, audio commentary by Francois Truffaut’s lifelong friend Robert Lachenay, audition footage of Jean –Pierre Leaud, Patrick Auffay and Richard Kanayan, newsreel footage of Leaud in Cannes, French TV interview excerpt with Truffaut and the theatrical trailer. Aspect ratio is 16:9, with sound quality processed in Dolby Digital Mono.

(Movie – Five Stars, DVD features – Five Stars) Not Rated, 99 mins. (Criterion)

July 5, 2006 | Permalink