The Four Hundred Blows
- François Truffaut
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Monday, December 15, 2003
Another important creation of this film is the character of Antoine Doinel. Genius casting landed Jean-Pierre Léaud the role, being at the time a young teenager like the part required. Léaud’s very gestures are unforgettable, his quiet sadness and his bursting temper contrasting his inner feelings of desolation. Antoine is a complex character, so complex that he cannot be fully understood. His actions and reactions are often unsettling, and one can only guess what he’ll do next. His attitude is a perfect reflection of the confusion of teenage years, especially in such a complicated life as the one Antoine lives.
At home, Antoine’s parents (Claire Maurier and Albert Rémy), loving on the surface, offer pure confusion and unsettledness to Antoine’s young existence. At first they seem the perfect couple, loving with each other and their child, but later on, little by little, we get to realize how wrong the first impression was. As hard as it may seem, Antoine still grabs the few good moments and makes the most of them. However, confused and tired, he starts looking for ways out. A day out of school, having fun at a fair, is good enough for starters; but later on, Antoine gives a shot to small-time crime.
The film’s quiet nature, much like the main character’s, turns the procedures into a series of heart-breaking moments that only get more and more powerful toward the end. As the story unfolds, and the reasons for everything become clearer and clearer, it becomes unforgettable by the minute. Such scenes as Antoine behind bars, and the final one at the beach, are truly shattering, and have become classics on their own.
Antoine Doinel became a recurring character for further semi-autobiographic films by Truffaut, first in the segment Antoine et Colette of the film Love at Twenty (1962), then in the hit comedies Stolen Kisses (1968), Bed & Board (1970), and Love on the Run (1979), all of which carried a strong emotional charge despite their being more on the comedic side. Léaud reprised Doinel in every one of these episodes, and an immortal saga resulted.
Closing with a line about The Four Hundred Blows, I’ll say that this landmark French film is not to be missed, as I stated, for multiple reasons, but mostly, because it’s one of the most heartfelt films you’ll ever get a chance to see.
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