Saturday, October 3, 2009

THE 400 BLOWS (1959, FRANCE)

The 400 Blows is certainly one of the most famous movies I have never seen. In fact, I’ve never seen a Francois Truffaut film before (Close Encounters of the Third Kind doesn’t count).

Well, now I have.

On the heals of seeing the first Italian Neo-Realism film Open City, it’s interesting to follow that with what is considered the first of the French New Wave films. The former film dealt with literal survival in wartime and the latter film dealt with a different kind of survival, a troubled boy’s dealings with indifferent parents, mean-spirited teachers and a society where the deck is stacked against him.

The 400 Blows left me a little cold at first, but it started to grow on me as it progressed. Antoine’s solo interview with a psychologist/social worker was very moving and the final freeze frame of Antoine’s face is truly an iconic shot that will stay with you. (I have to assume, I only finished watching it 10 minutes ago.)

Truffaut was one of the advocates of the auteur theory, which states (some say overstates) the director as the sole architect of a film. I don’t buy into that much, and you certainly don’t want to mention the auteur theory around writers like William Goldman or Harlan Ellison or they will get more than a little agitated.

I guess the opposite of a Neo-Realism film might be an Esther Williams swimming/musical extravaganza. The opposite of a French New Wave film might be a frothy Rock Hudson-Doris Day romantic comedy. Just an observation.

The commentary on the DVD I saw by film historian Glen Kenny is also recommended. I have liked most commentaries by film historians, but I can’t recall ever really liking a film commentary by an actor. Just another observation.

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