The 400 Blows: A Film by Francois Truffaut (1959)  » Movies  »
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  • I thought half of the movie was a silent film
  • In a profound hindsight, I think the story also conveys an objective assessment of how juvenile delinquents were politically brought up at that era
  • Beyond all the lamentable trials of Antoine’s childhood, I like that the ending was at least, hopeful


    • by jhunie

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      Since I sat down and watched A Bout de Souffle aka Breathless on TV monde’s random showings of French classics at slumber hours, I’ve been captivated by French cinema. But way before my interests landed the French new wave genre, I already came across this familiar movie when it was mentioned in Haruki Murakami’s book – Kafka on the Shore. This classic film nevertheless introduced me to Francois Truffaut’s works with a fair appreciation of his style. I don’t call The 400 Blows an enigmatic story. It’s essentially a coming-of-age film.

      Antoine Doinel is a grade-schooler who struggles from a pretentiously functional working-class family to the misfortunes at school. He is simply a victim of poor upbringing and an uptight educational system. What surprises me is the fact that he belongs to a seemingly normal family. I also found the shifting attitudes between his parents to be weird.


      His strict mother becomes softer at the end of the film whereas his formerly good-natured stepfather gives him away. The hard slapping was a recurring emphasis of the film which made me feel awful.

      I thought half of the movie was a silent film. One unforgettable highlight of the story was the puppet show. Rene and Antoine went to see the kiddie show which was mobbed by little kids. Little red riding hood was the amusement du jour and it’s as if the viewing children were looking at the audience in their widely beaming expressions, the camera effectively illustrates innocence at that scenario. Then it shifts back to Antoine and his friends, as if implicating in that comparison how we adults forget so easily that they are still children; and how we’re likely to rob them off their innocence.

      In a profound hindsight, I think the story also conveys an ...


      • objective assessment of how juvenile delinquents were politically brought up at that era. I was deeply intrigued that the judicial system at that time takes full responsibility of the child. Hence, the parental rights are turned over to the authorities which meant the guardians don’t have legal control over their children, just like orphans. One ambiguous scene and something I haven’t fully digested was the part where listless little pre-school toddlers were caged – a big contrast to the gleeful puppet show. But bureaucracy was only one of the poignant parts of the film and a brief one shown at the latter part of the story.

        I don’t know what to make of the title and how it relates to the film. But its original French title does make sense. The stale quality of the black and white picture didn’t hold me back, instead the juxtaposition of its aerial

        cinematography and the uplifting soundtrack was very refined, it was a well-rounded feature film. Jean Pierre Leaud was an outstanding child actor. He played a very convincing character. There were some tricky moments, bordering between reality and cinema that I was close to believing I was watching a candid documentary instead of an act. I especially like, rather acclaim how the actor comes up with a stunned childish expression as an immediate reaction after each of the slightly violent slapping episodes he endured along.

        Beyond all the lamentable trials of Antoine’s childhood, I like that the ending was at least, hopeful. He broke away from the observation center and for the first time in his life, saw the sea. Maybe Truffaut wants us to think freedom is how we should educate our children and let them be. For all its glory, I highly suggest you watch this beautiful film.




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