400 Blows (1959)

Much has been discussed about this French New Wave classic – the first film of François Truffaut, jumpstarting the French New Wave and the career of Jean-Pierre Léaud, the autobiographical elements of Truffaut’s adolescence, etc. It has become so monumental that the status overshadows the actual movie.

That being said, it does work great on the story telling level, because of its simplicity and clarity. The story is simple. Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is an adolescent boy who runs into troubles everywhere he goes and gradually descents to the path of an outlaw.

The guerrilla filmmaking style was new at its time and conveys an intimacy between the viewers and the characters rarely seen in other movies of the same period. The style also conveys Paris with an emotional accuracy. If you visit Paris today, it feels pretty much the same it does in this film despite the urban and architectural changes since.

The famous ending works so beautiful as a timeless metaphor of adolescence – Antoine escapes from the observation center and runs to the beach, seeing the ocean for the first time. He stands confused between the ocean and the land, frozen in uncertainty trapped in a frozen frame.

That one last frame is worth the entire movie.

400 Blows” is directed by François Truffaut, starring Jean-Pierre Léaud. Buy DVD or Blueray at Criterion.

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