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THE 400 BLOWS

Director: FRANÇOIS TRUFFAUT

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


FRANÇOIS TRUFFAUT’S 1959 MASTERPIECE WAS ONE OF THE FILMS THAT LAUNCHED THE FRENCH NEW WAVE AND IS RE-RELEASED IN DIGITAL FORMAT TO MARK ITS 50th ANNIVERSARY.

The most autobiographical of Truffaut’s works and unquestionably one of the best ever films about childhood, The 400 Blows 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 director’s own troubled youth, Antoine seeks refuge in truancy, petty crime and the cinema. He’s apprehended by the police for returning a typewriter he has stolen. Ironically, his attempt to right a wrong lands him in a reformatory school in one of the film’s many illustrations of the hypocrisies and double standards of the adult world.

The theme of imprisonment is strongly evoked throughout The 400 Blows. Truffaut shows how difficult are the initiation rites into adolescence, but he also reveals that the transition is merely an exchange of one form of imprisonment for another. People of all ages are bound by society’s rules and any respite from them is rare. At the same time, the suggestion that such moments may be seized is what prevents the film from entering the realm of pessimism. Here, as with 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. — Peter Walsh.

The IFI, in collaboration with Friends of the Earth, will present a fundraising screening on April 3rd at 8.25 p.m., to be followed by a Q & A with the filmmakers. Tickets cost €20.

Not Stupid — Rising to the Climate Challenge
April 9 (5.45). Meeting Room.
A panel discussion chaired by Friends of the Earth Director Oisin Coghlan, with Senator Ivana Bacik, John Gibbons and Victoria White. The event is free but ticketed.

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