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THE 400 BLOWS

Director: FRANÇOIS TRUFFAUT

FRANCE • 1959 • SUBTITLED • BLACK AND WHITE • ANAMORPHIC • DIGITAL • 94 MIN


One of the films that launched the New Wave following its triumph at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, The 400 Blows is the most autobiographical of François Truffaut’s works and also one of the best ever films about childhood. It follows a few months in the life of twelve-year-old Antoine Doinel (an extraordinary performance by Jean-Pierre Leaud), who is misunderstood and mistreated by his neglectful parents and repressive schoolteachers. Reflecting the filmmaker’s own troubled youth, Antoine seeks refuge in truancy, petty crime and the cinema before he’s apprehended and sent to a reformatory. The theme of imprisonment is strongly evoked throughout The 400 Blows, but the film isn’t an exercise in pessimism. As in his other great works, the key to Truffaut’s complex humanism is to be found in his film’s alternating qualities of exhilaration and bleakness. It’s all summed up in the unforgettable final shot, which has the young hero ambiguously poised between freedom and an uncertain future. Truffaut used the character in a whole series of subsequent films, and Leaud became one of the actors most associated with the nouvelle vague.

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